MSE News

Government brings back PCR tests and isolation requirements for travellers returning to the UK

The Government has announced new measures to tackle the latest coronavirus variant, named Omicron. These include new testing and isolation requirements for travellers to the UK, quarantine for those identified as contacts of those who test positive for the Omicron variant, and a strengthening of mask-wearing guidance in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement at a press conference this evening (27 November) and said the measures would be reviewed in three weeks' time. They include (the Scottish Government has also announced similar):

  • All travellers to the UK from overseas must take a 'day two' PCR test. Travellers will also need to isolate at home until they have a negative result. This applies to everyone arriving into the UK from 4am on Tuesday 30 November (fully vaccinated travellers, and those aged five to 18, entering the UK before that time can continue with their previously booked lateral flow tests).

    It's worth noting that these tests don't need to be taken on the second day after your return from overseas – they can be taken at the airport immediately after you land, or any time on or before the end of the second day, meaning you're able to minimise the time you're isolating for before getting the result.

    If you're booking a PCR test, see our Cheap PCR & lateral flow tests for travel guide, which includes airport operators (though they tend to be more expensive than postal PCR services).

  • Adding more countries to the 'red' travel list. All travellers returning to the UK from these countries will now need to isolate in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense, as well as take a PCR test on day two and day eight.

    The countries now on the red list are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia. For more on your rights, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

  • Contacts of those who test positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant to isolate for 10 days. This is regardless of whether they're vaccinated or not.

  • Mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport from Tuesday. This guidance had been relaxed in England but is now being brought back. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, masks were already required on public transport and, in some places, in shops and restaurants.

Spain changes entry requirements for UK travellers

From Wednesday 1 December, UK travellers to Spain will need to be fully vaccinated (excluding under-12s), to be allowed in. You'll need to have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before your trip to meet that requirement.

This will apply until at least Friday 31 December, and is a change from the previous requirement that allowed unvaccinated travellers to show proof of a negative Covid test result.

If this changes your travel plans, talk with your holiday supplier(s) to see if you can move the dates of your trip, or get a credit note or refund. For more on your rights and what to try, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

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