Business travel and family Christmas vacations remained in disarray after all travelers arriving in the UK were told they had to self-isolate for two days until they had a negative Covid PCR test.
Boris Johnson said the “hard” restrictions were necessary to “buy time” for the country after the emergence of the new omicron variant.
The news was greeted with dismay by the travel industry, which described the move as a “blow” to an industry that was only “getting back on its feet.”
The new rules, which are expected to take effect in a few days, mean travelers will again have to shell out for the more expensive Covid tests which can cost between Â£ 25 and Â£ 400 per person. Short business trips to the UK could be hardest hit by the requirement to self-isolate on arrival.
Under the new rules, travelers from any destination will be required to take a PCR test before the second day after arrival and will only be able to stop self-isolating after testing negative.
The new rules will apply to travelers whether they have received both vaccines or neither.
Business leaders have warned that the new measures will “effectively kill” short business trips.
“Hard measures for everyone”
Richard Lee, business manager, said: âIt seems extremely disproportionate. Why not use a PCR entry test like most other countries? Having to self-isolate will again kill short, high-value business trips. “
Another, Bobby Lane, CEO of business services company Factotum, said: âThis has big implications for people who have booked vacations or business trips and cannot take time off work or change their plans at this late stage. “
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Mr Johnson said the new travel restrictions were necessary to “buy time” so that British scientists could determine how dangerous and vaccine resistant the new strain is.
He said: âWhat we are announcing are strict measures for anyone traveling so that you have to do a PCR test as soon as you get back here and you have to self-isolate for 48 hours until you test negative. .
“I’m afraid it might sound difficult, but that’s the way it should be.”
The move marks a sharp turnaround on the part of ministers, who had relaxed Covid travel restrictions until the emergence of omicron.
Starting in the summer, ministers allowed travelers with both vaccines to take the cheaper side-flow tests on their return from overseas.
Last month, the government also removed the highest level of travel restrictions – Red List countries – which required people to return to quarantine in a state-approved hotel for 10 days.
However, the Red List was brought down on Thursday after the new variant was confirmed in South Africa. The country and five surrounding African countries have seen their direct flights suspended and people returning from those countries have been told they must self-isolate at home for 10 days.