The United Kingdom has implemented a series of new restrictions for travelers due to the emergence of a new Omicron Covid-19 variant. In adding the new entry requirements to travelers arriving from abroad, the UK is hoping to not only keep its people safe and protected against the virus, but to prevent importing more cases of the Omicron variant from abroad like the country experienced with the spread of the Delta variant last summer.
The UK isn’t the only country implementing restrictions changes in the wake of the new threat, with several other countries also putting into place strict measures such as banning flights from certain countries. Here’s a look at the new restrictions that the UK will be implementing, how they differ from the country’s current Covid-19 related policies plus an overview of the Covid-19 situation in the country at present.
New UK Restrictions – Information For Travelers
Shortly after news was published about the prevalence of the Omicron variant, the UK was amongst the first countries to react. On Friday, the UK placed six African countries – South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini – on its travel red list, as well as temporarily suspending flights from arriving from those countries. Other countries followed suit with travel bans of their own, including the US, as countries scrambled to contain cases of the new virus variant.
However, the UK is not stopping with just a flight ban and moving countries onto a red list. The country has decided to implement a series of other restrictions to mitigate the risk travel might have to the safety of the population, including more stringent testing policies. The move comes as two cases of the variant were detected in the UK, both of which are said to be connected with travel in southern Africa.
Whereas international arrivals had previously only had to take a rapid test – also known as an ATK test – on day two of their time in the UK, travelers will now have to go for a PCR test instead on day two. The move will apply to all international arrivals – regardless of their vaccination status or where they have flown to the UK from – and travelers must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result. Whilst PCR tests provide more accurate results, they are also more expensive than ATK tests.
In addition to the change in testing requirements, those who have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must also self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. Those who have been exposed will be contacted by the UK’s NHS Track and Trace facility to be told of their next steps. As of yet, there is no information about how long those exposed to the variant will have to isolate for.
The third significant change is that the wearing of face coverings when on public transport and in shops is set to be made compulsory once more, though there is an exception to this rule for businesses in the hospitality trade. Each of these changes were announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in a press conference. They will be reviewed after a period of three weeks.
The UK is currently having trouble battling the spread of Covid-19, with the country registering a rolling seven day average of more than 43,000 cases, and more than 100 deaths. Around 68% of the country is fully vaccinated, with a quarter of the population having received a booster shot against the virus.