How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for international travel will work

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PCR tests are back for travelers arriving in the UK. Weeks after rules were eased to allow cheaper and faster lateral flow (antigen) tests, the government has tightened rules once again in response to the spread of the Omicron version of the coronavirus.

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Also, the previously inactive Red List has been expanded and now includes 10 southern African nations.

These are important questions and answers.

What are the new rules for travelers going to the UK?


Anyone arriving from Red List countries – currently South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – must prebook hotel quarantine for 11 nights at a cost of up to £2,285, That includes all meals and two PCR tests.

A passenger locator form is still required for fully vaccinated passengers (and those under the age of 18 traveling with them). This can only be accomplished with proof of having booked an appropriate test. It must now be a PCR test, which will be more expensive and slower to produce results. The rationale is that positive tests can be sequenced to identify whether an Omicron variant is involved.

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The second, more important, change is the need to self-isolate upon arrival until a negative result is achieved.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, tweeted: “Everyone arriving in the UK is required to self-isolate, take a PCR test on or before 2 days when they arrive, and self-isolate until a negative result is obtained. – Continue to isolate.

“Those who test positive will have to isolate for 10 days.”

So when can I actually take the exam?

The day of arrival is counted as zero. You can take the test at any time from the moment of arrival in the UK to the end of the second full day after arrival.

There would be a strong incentive to test at the airport. While PCR tests take longer to analyze than the lateral flow variety, some airport testing centers can process the results in less than three hours.

Does anything change for unvaccinated travelers?

No: They will still have to undergo pre-departure tests, PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival and self-isolate for 10 days.

What is involved in self-isolation?

This is a stringent requirement that does not allow the traveler to leave his/her accommodation except in some very finely defined circumstances. Arrival from the airport, sea port or international train station, the government says: “You must go straight to the place where you are staying.” If it is a long journey which cannot be completed in a day then you are allowed to stay somewhere overnight.

“Only use public transport if you have no other option,” says the government.

“You have to quarantine in one place for the full quarantine period, where you can deliver food and other necessities.”

Can I leave to go shopping or walk the dog?

No. The government says: “You should not go shopping.

“Unless you are at risk of harm, you cannot leave the premises where you are in quarantine.

“You should exercise only inside the place where you are quarantining or in the garden. “You can’t leave your dog for a walk. You have to ask friends or relatives for help to help you with this.”

Visitors, including friends and family, are not permitted unless they are providing care or support, veterinary services or “certain important public services”.

What about testing?

If you have booked it at an outstation location, you can leave the location for testing. Where your tests are given and self-administered, if there is no one in your home or bubble who can post the test for processing, you can leave the premises to post your test.

When do the new rules come into force?

it is unclear. Granthshala Immediate clarification has been sought from the Transport Department and the Health Department.

Bringing back PCR tests, and making quarantine mandatory till the results are known, makes sense. But it begs that the new rules – and especially the opening times – are still not publicly available two hours after the prime minister’s statement. In Europe and around the world, thousands of travelers are preparing to return to the UK and they currently have no idea what rules to follow. ,

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It is a sign of how little the UK government understands global travel that they announce that all arrivals will have to undergo PCR testing and self-isolate – but this Don’t say since when. “Passengers are getting on planes now. Every second of every minute.”

I already have a lateral flow test book. What are my options?

Many people have ordered test-at-home kits for postal use. It was a rational decision on the grounds that there was no time pressure. In fact, the current need for testing after arrival in the UK has become a joke, with many stories of postal tests not coming at all or taking weeks to deliver results.

But with the need to isolate themselves until a negative result comes, they would prefer a much faster test.

If the test kit has already arrived, you are unlikely to get a refund.

If you haven’t received the kit yet — or are planning on going to a testing center — a good testing provider will allow you to upgrade.

Sadly, some providers have terms and conditions that do not allow changes after booking.

Granthshala It has long been recommended that tests for arrival be booked as late as possible – ideally on the day of departure for the UK. There is no point in booking in advance.

How long will the new rules last?

The transport secretary said: “We will review these measures in three weeks to make sure they are working effectively.”

Boris Johnson called them “temporary and precautionary” and added: “I’m sure Christmas this year will be much better than last year’s.”

But the next review is on the last Saturday before Christmas – by then many will have decided to stay home.

Paul Charles said: “We are in a three-week position at one of the busiest times of the year.”

What does the travel industry think about the changes?

It is shocked. The changes would damage consumer confidence and increase the overall cost of vacations. A spokesman for the travel association, Abta, called it “a major blow to travel businesses”, many of which were only starting to get back on their feet after 20 months of severe restrictions.

The spokesman said: “It is important that this decision be placed under careful review and that restrictions be lifted immediately if it becomes clear that there is no risk to the UK vaccination programme.”

Clive Ratton, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said the measure was an overreach: “Governments around the world have been acting without lessons for the past two years.

“It is imperative that international protocols are introduced without delay to save lives, save economies and save our future.”

Veteran tour guide and photographer, Paul Goldstein, was concerned about the expansion of the UK Red List. He said: “It is a disgrace, punishing a country for their transparency and expertise by throwing them in the poor house.

“There are now 10 countries on the list, they are all completely mystified and distraught by this persecution. European cases are on the rise, South Africans are not like that, but they are the only ones killed.

“As well as destroying travel apartheid economies, the UK travel industry is dodging to the wolves.”

Any other changes?

People in the UK are now required to wear a face covering on public transport.

Mr Shapps said: “These are targeted measures to provide trust and security.”


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