Omicron: New travel restrictions come into force amid concerns over Covid variant

7 December 2021, 06:15 | Updated: 7 December 2021, 06:17

The travel rules have ben updated amid fears over the Omicron Covid variant.
The travel rules have ben updated amid fears over the Omicron Covid variant. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Updated travel restrictions have come into effect amid concerns over the Omicron Covid variant.

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The changes mean all international travellers will need to take a pre-departure test before coming to England.

Anyone travelling from countries not on the red list will be required to take a test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status.

If they test positive, they will not be allowed to travel, with similar measures also set to be implemented across Scotland and Wales.

It comes in an attempt to slow the spread of Omicron - the latest Covid variant of concern - following warnings that the time between infection and infectiousness could be shorter with the strain.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on Monday that early actions would help the Government avoid having to take "tougher action later on".

However, he also said that the variant was spreading within communities, rather than just being linked to international travel.

Read more: Pre-departure Covid tests reintroduced for travellers to UK amid Omicron fears

Read more: Omicron: Variant spreading through community transmission in 'multiple English regions'

Mr Javid said: "The Omicron variant is continuing to spread here and around the world.

"According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336.

"This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England."

He said the Government cannot "say for certain" whether Omicron will escape Covid vaccines, or how severe a disease it will cause.

Mr Javid explained: "We are learning more about this new variant all the time."

The introduction of new travel rules followed calls from Labour to implement the process.

The party's leader - Sir Keir Starmer - said the Government must now do "whatever it can" to lower the price of Covid pre-departure tests.

He said: "I would have liked to see the Government act more quickly. As ever, they are behind the curve. As soon as we saw the scientific evidence saying that (there) should be pre-departure tests, we called on the Government to do this last week. The Government delayed, as they always do.

"They've done it now, that's a good thing. But the Government needs to get ahead instead of being behind."

He added: "I also want to see the Government doing whatever it can to bring the price of these tests down because lots of people... (are) getting really hammered by prices that can't be justified."