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COVID-19 RULES

UPDATE: What travellers from Europe to UK need to know about new Covid test rules

With the worsening Covid-19 situation across Europe and the spread of the new Omicron variant, the UK has announced yet more new testing rules for arrivals. Here's what you need to know about the new requirement for pre-departure tests.

Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L), Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (R)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) announces the new requirements for entry to the UK at a press conference alongside Britain's Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance (R) on November 27th, 2021. Hollie Adams / POOL / AFP

Pre-departure tests

On Saturday December 4th the British government announced it would demand pre-departure tests for all arrivals from 4am on December 7th onwards.

These tests, which were scrapped only weeks ago, must be taken within two days of travel to the UK. They can be PCR or antigen tests and must be carried out by all travellers regardless of their vaccination status.

The requirement applies for those arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Day 2 PCR tests

On November 27th the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that PCR tests and self-isolation for UK arrivals would be reintroduced amid concerns of the new Omicron variant that was first identified in South Africa and has now been found in several people in mainland Europe and the UK.

READ ALSO: Germany confirms two cases of new Covid strain: regional ministry

The requirements came into force at 4am on Tuesday, November 30th.

This means that if you’re arriving in the UK after 4am on Tuesday, November 30th, you need to book and take PCR tests instead of lateral flow tests, which will no longer be accepted.

You’ll need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving in the UK and self-isolate until you get a negative test result.

Quarantine requirements

This means you can only leave home if you need to buy essential supplies, such as food or medication (but only if no-one else can buy them for you), to take a test or for urgent medical care.

The potential problem with this change is that the UK testing system has been beset with problems.

For example, at least one private testing company is being investigated for failure to deliver PCR test results on time – or in some cases at all – meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for a long time.

And another is being looked into for providing thousands of incorrect negative results.

And Which? travel editor Rory Boland expressed concern about the testing companies and how they would cope with the additional demand, as he details in the below tweet, meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for days.

Forms to fill in

If you’re due to arrive before 4am on November 30th, you can complete the required Passenger Locator Form now, but if you’re arriving after that time, you’ll need to return to the website after 4am on Monday, November 29th as the system is being updated.

You need to fill one of these forms in, even if you’re just passing through the UK, and it needs to be completed 48 hours or less before you start your journey.

Lack of clarity

However, a few things remain unclear, including what the requirements are for people who are entering the UK for less than two days, and whether these could rule out short business trips. 

The government is expected to reveal further details this week and we will be update this article as soon as further information is available.

Other restrictions

Wearing face masks on public transport and in shops will also be mandatory again in England from Tuesday. 

They are still required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on public transport and many indoor spaces.

 
 
 

 

Member comments

  1. A good tip for people arriving at London Stansted airport – you can book a PCR test on arrival at the airport and get the result within 24 hours so you won’t have to isolate for too long

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COVID-19

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The French parliament has passed the controversial health bill which updates France's emergency provisions for Covid - and allows the return of negative Covid tests for all travellers at the border, if the health situation requires.

French government votes to allow return of Covid tests at border

The Loi sanitaire was eventually approved by the Assemblée nationale on Monday after several variations and amendments added on its passage through the Assemblée and the Senate. It was voted on and passed Tuesday, May 26th. 

The bill replaces the State of Health Emergency that has been in place since March 2020 and puts in place provision for government actions should the health situation deteriorate or a dangerous new variant of Covid emerge.

The original text had a provision for the return of the health pass at the border, but this has now been scrapped and instead the government has the right to make a negative Covid test a condition of entry for all travellers.

At present negative tests are required only for unvaccinated travellers, and the new test requirement would only be put into force if a dangerous new variant emerges.

The government will be able to implement the testing rule by decree for two months, but a further parliamentary debate would be required to extend it beyond that.

From August 1st the State of Health Emergency will be formally repealed, which means that the government no longer has the power to introduce major limits on personal freedom such as lockdowns or curfews without first having a debate in parliament.

The bill also allows for an extension of data collection required for the SI-DEP epidemic monitoring tools such as the contact tracing app Tous Anti Covid until June 30th, 2023 and Contact Covid until January 31st, 2023. 

The most controversial measure in the bill was the reinstatement of healthcare workers who were suspended for being unvaccinated – this actually only involves a couple of hundred people but medical unions and the medical regulator Haut Autorité de Santé (HAS) have both been against it.

However the bill allows for the eventual lifting of the requirement for Covid vaccination for healthcare workers, when the HAS judges it is no longer necessary and once the requirement is lifted, the suspended healthcare workers will be reinstated “immediately”.

The bill was approved on Monday evening with 184 votes to 149, the result of a joint committee that was able to harmonise the versions of the Assembly and the Senate.

The final vote passed the Senate on Tuesday.

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