As of 4am this morning, PCR tests and self-isolation are back on the cards for anyone landing in the UK, regardless of vaccination status, as the Government scrambles to tackle the new Omicron variant
Passengers flying into British airports are arriving to find strict Covid-19 restrictions are once again in place, as the Government scrambles to tackle the new Omicron variant.
PCR tests and self-isolation are back on the cards for anyone landing in the UK, regardless of vaccination status, as of 4am this morning.
The more costly PCR tests, which need to be sent off and analysed in a lab, were removed from mandatory travel protocols in time for October half-term.
But a little more than a month later, they are once again mandatory for international travellers arriving in the UK.
Anyone arriving at a UK airport after 4am on Tuesday has to take a test through a private provider on day two after landing and proceed to self-isolate until they get the result.
All close contacts of those infected with the Omicron mutation have to isolate for ten days, while unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated close contacts of a Covid case must still self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of whether it’s the Omicron variant.
The new rules are part of a string of new Covid rules in England Boris Johnson has announced in a bid to tackle the Omicron variant – which is already thought to be spreading in the community.
Images from Heathrow Airport this morning show lengthy queues of people who likely didn’t know they would have to self-isolate for 72 hours when they left the country.
Previously, vaccinated travellers only had to take a lateral flow Day 2 test, and did not have to isolate. The new rules apply even to the double-jabbed.
Arrivals who land without having booked a Day two test in advance can be fined £1,000 on the spot.
Ten African countries were added to England’s red list over the weekend, forcing all arrivals into a hotel quarantine, costing £2,285 a head for 11 nights.
The 10 nations are Angola, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Those who breach isolation rules can be fined between £500 and £10,000.
The Prime Minister has been accused of not going far enough, having not yet implemented his full ‘Plan B’ for winter.
Labour and the governments of Scotland and Wales have said he must do more in order to safeguard against the variant.
The British government has joined countries around the world scrambling to reintroduce measures to get on top of the new variant.
Meanwhile, scientists are racing to determine whether the highly mutated strain is more deadly than the dominant Delta variant, or not, and whether existing vaccines work to deter infection and serious illness from it.
“The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant,” Boris Johnson said.
“Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defense, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted.
“Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.”
The rule changes will have come as a blow to the travel industry, which was also struggling to come back from a turbulent time over the course of the pandemic.
While the recent opening up of the travel industry has provided a boost for holiday firms, it did little to make up for losses sustained over the winter wave.
Airline easyJet today revealed it had lost £1billion over the past 12 months.
The company was already seeing the Omicron variant have an effect on demand.
Under Johnson’s new rules, adults will also get fast-tracked booster vaccines, while face masks have been made mandatory in shops and on public transport.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.