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06 Jan 2022

The UK government has announced a series of changes to the requirements for travellers arriving in England. Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “We’re removing the temporary extra testing measures we introduced last year at the border to slow cases of Omicron coming to the UK. “Now that Omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.” From 4am on Friday 7 January, fully vaccinated passengers and under-18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England or self-isolate on arrival but must continue to take their post-arrival tests.

Previously, those who returned a positive pre-departure test would not be permitted to travel. Additionally, from 4am Sunday 9 January, fully vaccinated passengers and over-5s arriving in England will now only need to take a lateral flow test, not a PCR test. The lateral flow test must be booked before travel to England and taken on or before day 2 of arrival in England. Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from Friday 7 January. Free NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel to protect NHS capacity. Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider. Passengers who have already bought a PCR to use for travel do not need to buy another test as PCRs can still be used. It will not be permissible to use a lateral flow test until after 4am, Sunday 9 January. Before 4am Sunday 9 January, travellers must use a PCR test after arrival. Mr Shapps said: “If your post-arrival lateral flow test comes out positive, you must self-isolate and take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.

“By reducing testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers to just a lateral flow test post-arrival, we’re supporting the safe reopening of international travel.” Mr Shapps did not mention any change to the rules that apply to those who are not fully vaccinated, so the assumption is that they will still be required to take a pre departure test, enter quarantine for 10 days on their return and take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8.

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