News that scientists in Africa have detected what’s now known as “Omicron,” a new COVID-19 variant, in several African countries, has taken the world by storm.
Various countries have taken different responses to this news. The governments of some countries — including the U.S. — have imposed restrictions on travelers from South Africa and seven neighboring countries where Omicron has already been detected. Meanwhile, other nations, including Israel and Japan, have closed their borders to all foreign travelers. The United Kingdom, however, has taken an approach that falls somewhere in between the other countries.
As of November 30 at 4 a.m., all international travelers arriving in the UK must take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test by the end of the second day after arrival. They also must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.
“We are not going to stop people traveling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people traveling,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference.
Johnson went on to note that “we need to take targeted and proportionate measures now as a precaution while we find out more.” These measures are necessary “to slow down the seeding of this variant in our country,” and to “buy time for our scientists to understand exactly what we are dealing with,” Johnson explained.
The New Measures
“The decision by the government to re-implement the need for a PCR test from all individuals arriving in the UK from abroad on day 2, with self-isolation until a negative test is reported, while frustrating for those traveling, is essential to rapidly identify cases of infection with the Omicron variant and implement prompt isolation and targeted contact tracing to limit the spread of the variant in the UK,” Dr. Nathalie MacDermott, National Institute for Health Research academic clinical lecturer at King’s College London, said at a press conference, an article in The Guardian reports.
Here’s what international travelers need to know before traveling to the UK.
If travelers are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, they must first fill out a passenger locator form less than 48 hours before arriving in the UK.
After arrival, they must self-isolate and then take the PCR test before the end of day 2 after arrival.
The tests can only be administered by government-approved providers. You can find a list of those providers here.
If fully vaccinated travelers receive a negative test result, they can end their self-isolation. On the other hand, if they receive a positive test result, they must self-isolate for 10 days and register their result with the National Health Service.
You can find all of the details about traveling to the UK here.
Face Mask Requirement
According to Johns Hopkins University data, there have been 302,385 new cases of COVID-19 in the UK during the past week. That said, 69 percent of the population is vaccinated for COVID-19.
In his press conference, Johnson noted that the UK has administered almost 16.8 million booster shots, and plans to administer six million vaccines over the next 3 weeks.
In addition to ramping up vaccination rates, the UK has introduced another measure to keep citizens and visitors alike healthy. Beginning today at 4 a.m., face masks are required when out in public.
“Face coverings are compulsory in shops and settings such as banks, post offices, and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so,” the government explains. “All hospitality settings are exempt.”
The new requirements to wear face masks in shops and on public transport — as well as the PCR testing requirement for international travelers arriving in the UK — will be reviewed in 3 weeks.
The situation with the Omicron variant and countries’ travel restrictions in response to the variant’s detection is changing quickly.