UK's pre-departure COVID test rules in force to slow Omicron spread

A look at travel rules in popular European destinations
Representational Image. Photo: Shutterstock Images

London: Any travellers arriving in the UK from overseas, including India, have to take a COVID-19 pre-departure test no sooner than 48 hours before their journey, under new rules in force from Tuesday aimed at slowing the spread of the Omicron variant.

Any contacts of a suspected Omicron case are already required to self-isolate for 10 days, including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Additionally, British and Irish citizens returning from the UK's red list travel ban countries Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe are required to hotel quarantine in a government-approved facility as the UK recorded 336 cases of the variant first detected in South Africa.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed community transmission of the highly transmissible COVID variant in a House of Commons statement on Monday. He also noted that no one who has tested positive with Omicron has been hospitalised, so far.

The number of confirmed cases in the UK is 336 they are all by definition infected. Some may be asymptomatic, others will be feeling ill. None of them, so far, as far as I am aware, have been hospitalised," Sajid Javid said.

"According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336. This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England," he said.

People arriving in the UK already had to self-isolate until they received a negative PCR test on day two after their arrival. With the latest measures, all travellers aged 12 and over will have to show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test before setting off for the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has quoted scientific analysis to suggest that the window of infection may be shorter for Omicron than for the Delta variant, which is why these tests must be taken as close to the departure date as possible and no sooner than 48 hours prior to a flight.

Scientists have raised concerns about how Omicron could interact with current vaccines, given the number and form of the mutations it exhibits.

Javid told Parliament that uncertainty remains over whether Omicron has the potential to knock us off our road to recovery.

He had previously announced a ramp-up of booster vaccines rollout and confirmed this week that 10,000 vaccinators were being recruited to expand the administering of third doses because "when the virus adapts, we must adapt too".

The minister said 350 military personnel would be deployed in England to help give boosters, and more than 100 in Scotland. According to official data, more than 20.5 million booster or third doses have been delivered since the rollout was expanded to all adults aged over 18.

On Monday, 51,459 cases of COVID-19 and 41 deaths were reported in the UK.  

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