What are the new travel rules for entering the UK and will Christmas be affected?

Updated rules are in force from 4am on December 7

Live updates: follow the latest news on Covid-19 variant Omicron

Britain has tightened its travel rules as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spreads to more countries around the world.

The idea is to keep the spread of the new variant at bay while scientists learn more about it. Cases have been confirmed across the UK and are expected to rise.

Other countries have also announced renewed travel restrictions on southern Africa after the World Health Organisation named Omicron a variant of concern because it is believed to be highly transmissible.

New rules were brought in on November 30, and on December 7, Nigeria is added to the red list and a further Covid test is added to travellers' To Do list.

What are the rules for entering the UK?

All travellers must complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before they arrive, and from 4am on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status.

All travellers must also book and pay for a PCR test before they travel. The test must be completed before the end of day two of their arrival. The day you arrive is day zero.

Double-vaccinated travellers must self-isolate until they have received a negative test result. This means travellers do not necessarily have to wait the full two days if they get their results quickly.

All suspected cases of Omicron and their contacts, even those who are double-vaccinated, must isolate for 10 days.

PCR tests can be purchased from private providers. Free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

Passengers who are not double-vaccinated will have to self-isolate at home for 10 days after arrival in the UK. They will also need to take a PCR test in the three days before travelling to the UK and a PCR test for day 2 and day 8.

How will Christmas be affected?

The restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks. By then it is hoped more is known about the variant and how badly it is affecting the country.

The British has said it is keen to avoid having to resort to tighter restrictions or lockdowns.

Face masks become compulsory again on public transport and in shops from Tuesday. School pupils are “strongly advised” to wear masks in communal areas. No extra rules have been placed on hospitality venues.

Six million booster jabs will be made available in England over the next three weeks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is looking at expanding the list of people eligible for booster vaccines.

Where can I get my PCR test?

Here is the government test provider to help people find the closest facility and it includes lists of current authorised testers.

With rules changing regularly, it is also best to make sure a company is operating by today's regulations.

Which? travel editor Rory Boland said travellers will understand the need for restrictions but the private testing industry on which they will have to rely “isn't fit for purpose".

“Testing firms have struggled to provide tests on time over the past year, so it is hard to have confidence they will be able to cope with this spike in demand at short notice,” he said.

If a test result is delayed, people must self-isolate until the is known or until 14 days after arrival, whichever is sooner.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade association Airlines UK, said many people set to arrive in the UK in the coming days would “struggle” to arrange PCR tests at short notice.

He said it would be “an appropriate gesture” for the government to provide tests free of charge to travellers, which could be done “at no excessive cost".

What is the red list?

Restrictions have been placed on 11 African countries as England revives its red list and hotel quarantine.

People arriving from red list countries, who are not UK residents or Irish citizens, will not be allowed into the country.

Those who are eligible for entry arriving from these places will have to book, pay for and self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

For 10 days, it costs £2,285 for one person, £1,430 for every additional adult or child over 11 and £325 for children aged 5 to 11.

Movement in the common travel area, which covers Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands, remains unrestricted.

Which countries are on the UK red list?

The list encompasses 11 countries, all in Africa and most in southern Africa.

They are:

  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • Eswatini
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Updated: December 6th 2021, 10:28 AM