Covid Omicron variant: UK tightens travel rules, pre-departure tests from Tuesday

Nigeria has been added to the red list of countries

By Prasun Sonwalkar

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Published: Sat 4 Dec 2021, 11:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Dec 2021, 8:55 AM

The Boris Johnson government on Saturday further tightened travel rules in light of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, making it mandatory for people travelling to England from 4am of Tuesday (December 7) to take pre-departure tests and provide proof of negative results,regardless of their vaccination status.

The new rule is applicable for everyone aged 12 and over. Nigeria will be added from Monday to the red list of countries from where people arriving must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, health secretary Sajid Javid announced, adding that the measures are needed to ‘buy time’ and to put in place protective measures.

Under current rules, travellers only need to book a PCR test to be taken before Day 2 of arrival and complete a passenger locator form before travelling to England. After arrival, they need to self-isolate until they test negative in the Day 2 PCR test.

But the new requirement from Tuesday to undergo pe-departure tests added to renewed concerns in the aviation and tourism industries over the impact on the struggling sectors.

Javid said: "In light of the most recent data we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the Omicron variant. Over the recent days we have learnt of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria. There are 27 cases already in England and that's growing and Nigeria now is second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to Omicron."

British Airways' Chairman Sean Doyle expressed dismay at the announcement, insisting to BBC that it was "completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science…Our customers will now be faced with uncertainty and chaos and yet again this a devastating blow for everyone who works in the travel industry".

The Johnson government has been under pressure from medical professionals and others to tighten rules to prevent another upsurge of the virus. Johnson has so far resisted calls to ask people to cut down on Christmas celebrations, insisting there is no need to cancel parties and events.

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