Everyone arriving in England from abroad will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test from 4am on Tuesday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this evening.
The pre-departure tests will have to be taken a maximum of 48 hours before departure and will apply to all travellers arriving in the UK, regardless of their departure city.
The Health Secretary further confirmed that there are now around confirmed 160 cases of the Omicron variant around the UK, 130 of them in England.
Javid also said that Nigeria is being added to the Government’s travel red list amid concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
“Over recent days we have learned of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria,” he told broadcasters.
Industry in shock
Commenting on the announcement that pre-departure tests will be introduced from Tuesday 7 December, Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee said this evening: “This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism.
“Pre-departure tests acts as a major deterrent to travel and most of the limited remaining demand following the reintroduction of self-isolation will now fall away, just as airports were hoping for a small uplift over the Christmas holiday,” Dee said.
“Travel and aviation are the only sectors hit with any operating restrictions in response to the omicron variant. The UK and devolved governments should have done the right thing and, alongside the restrictions, announced support for our businesses and our staff to get through another period of shutdown.”
Meanwhile, Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said this evening “it is premature to hit millions of passengers and industry before we see the full data.”
“We don’t have the clinical evidence. The red list extension made complete sense – that’s what it’s there for – but we know from experience that blanket restrictions do not stop the importation of variants. It’s already here,” he added.
“They’ve now changed their travel advice twice within a week and it’s just impossible for anyone to plan. These measures must be removed as quickly as possible in line with the speed of the booster programme,” Alderslade said.
Javid also said he has met with the World Health Organisation’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, describing it as “productive”.
He tweeted: “Productive meeting with @DrTedros and his team to share our findings so far on Omicron.
“We continue to work with @WHO on our global treaty to prepare for and respond to future pandemics, and on building a global surveillance network.”