The UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, announced today (4 December) that, in the light of emerging evidence and the changing global picture with regards to the spread of Omicron, from 4am on Tuesday anyone wishing to travel to the UK from countries and territories not on the red list must also show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test, taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and over.
Today’s announcement comes as countries around the world continue to strengthen their travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, with the US, France and Ireland all requiring passengers to take pre-departure tests.
New analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which increases the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.
Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight to the UK without providing evidence of a negative test result. Given the reduced incubation period of the Omicron variant, passengers are advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.
Shapps said, “Following developments in the past week, the science shows that we must be cautious in guarding against this new variant and so, while we appreciate this will be difficult for the travel sector, it’s important we prioritise public health. As we learn more about the Omicron variant, we will review these temporary measures to ensure they continue to be proportionate and necessary to protect public health.”
Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, added: “We knew this winter would be challenging but the arrival of a new variant means we must further strengthen our defences. As our world-leading scientists continue to understand more about the Omicron variant we are taking decisive action to protect public health and the progress of our Covid-19 vaccination programme. I urge everyone to do their bit to slow the spread by following the new travel rules, wearing masks where mandatory and most importantly getting the booster jab when called.”