Covid travel rules UK: new testing requirements explained - and which countries are on the red list?

The government is tightening rules on international travel in a bid to limit further Omicron Covid cases entering the UK

Travel rules for holidaymakers returning to the UK will be made stricter next week, the government has confirmed.

Testing requirements for travelling abroad will largely return to what they were earlier this year, while another country will be added to the travel red list.

Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

What are the new travel rules?

From 4am on Tuesday (7 December), anyone travelling to the UK from a country not on the red list will need to take a pre-departure test a maximum of 48 hours before travel, regardless of their vaccination status.

The rule applies to anyone aged 12 and above, with travellers able to take either a rapid lateral flow test or a PCR test, which must be negative.

This pre-departure test is in addition to proof of a negative PCR test which must be taken on or before day two after arrival.

What about the red list?

The government has also extended the red list for international travel to include Nigeria.

From 4am on Monday (6 December), all travellers returning to the UK from Nigeria will be required to enter managed hotel quarantine for 10 days at a cost of thousands of pounds.

Nigeria joins 10 other African nations already on the red list, which include Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Why are travel rules changing?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the crackdown on rules comes in light of the new OmicronCovid-19 variant, with the temporary measures intended to help prevent further cases from entering the UK.

New analysis by the UK Health and Security Agency (HSA) suggests the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

As such, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has decided to increase the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.

The HSA said that as of Saturday (4 December) a further 26 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in the UK, 25 of which are in England.

This takes the total number of confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 160 so far.

Mr Javid said: “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.”

When will rules be reviewed?

The government has said the new temporary measures will be examined at the three-week review point on 20 December.

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