PCR tests and self-isolation are back for travellers arriving in the UK. Weeks after international travel rules were eased to allow cheaper and faster lateral flow (antigen) tests, the government is tightening restrictions once again in response to the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
At the same time, the previously dormant red list has been expanded and now applies to arrivals from 10 southern African nations.
These are the key questions and answers.
What are the new rules for travellers to the UK?
Anyone arriving from a red list nation – currently South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – must must register for hotel quarantine for 11 nights at a cost of up to £2,285, which includes all meals and two PCR tests.
From all other countries (except the Republic of Ireland, from which there is neither testing nor quarantine), the rules depend on the traveller’s vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated travellers (and under-18s travelling with them) arriving after 4am on Tuesday 30 November must book a PCR test to be taken on arrival (or one of the two following days).
PCR tests are more expensive and slower to process, but allow positive tests to be sequenced to identify whether the Omicron variant is involved.
The traveller must also self-isolate on arrival until a negative result is received.
Anyone who tests positive must isolate for 10 days.
All travellers must complete a passenger locator form within the 48 hours before arrival. The government says the system is currently being updated and people arriving after 4am on Tuesday will need to wait until 4am on Monday to complete the form.
I thought I had to take the test on day two?
That is a widely held but mistaken view. You can take the test any time from immediately after arrival in the UK to the end of the second full day after arrival.
There will be a strong incentive to have the test at the airport. While PCR tests take much longer to analyse than the lateral flow variety, some airport testing centres can process the results in less than three hours, allowing travellers to leave self-isolation soon after arrival in the UK.
Does anything change for unvaccinated travellers?
No: they are still required to take a pre-departure test, take PCR tests on days two and eight after arrival and self-isolate for 10 days.
What does self-isolation involve?
It is a rigorous requirement that does not allow the traveller to leave their dwelling except in a few very closely defined circumstances.
From the arrival airport, sea port or international railway station, the government says: “You must travel directly to the place you’re staying.” If this is a long journey that cannot be completed in a day you are permitted to stay somewhere overnight.
“Only use public transport if you have no other option,” the government says.
“You must quarantine in one place for the full quarantine period, where you can have food and other necessities delivered.”
Can I leave to go shopping or walk the dog?
No. The government says: “You must not go shopping.
“Unless you’re at risk of harm, you cannot leave the premises where you’re in quarantine. You must…
Read More: PCR tests and self-isolation | The Independent