Covid: Travellers recall ‘stressful’ process of pre-travel tests
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Travellers entering the UK from 11 ‘red list’ countries – all in Africa – face 10-day hotel quarantines at an eye-watering price. The rules were implemented as scientists in South Africa raised the alarm on the Omicron coronavirus variant, but the sudden clampdown on travel led to widespread criticism and accusations of discrimination against the nations who sought to protect others with full transparency.
So will the rules be relaxed soon?
Encouraging reports for people with loved ones in red list countries show the hotel quarantine rules could soon be relaxed somewhat.
In the Commons last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that, as Omicron became the dominant Covid variant and is transmitted in the community, there would be “less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all.”
And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is said to have urged his colleagues to ease restrictions on travellers.
Early indicators now suggest an update on the rules – which currently see travellers forking out £2,285 per person to stay in an airport hotel – could be altered as early as this week.
Paul Charles, CEO at The PC Agency travel consultants, told Telegraph Travel: “There will be changes to the red list and hotel quarantine system later this week, changes which enable the Government to look friendlier towards travel just one week before Christmas.
“The red list will stay in some form, as the Government relies on it as a safety net to expand at the right moment, but I’m expecting hotel quarantine to be relaxed for UK citizens entering England and possibly all the devolved nations.
“It will be replaced instead by self-isolation at home which is something that should have been introduced from the beginning.”
And last week during a press conference, the Prime Minister was asked whether travellers could instead isolate at home for the required 10 days if fully vaccinated, to which he replied: “We will be looking at the red list and the way to do it.”
If restrictions are lifted, there is expected to be a different set of rules for the unvaccinated.
Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are all currently on the red list.
Additional travel rules recently imposed around testing are more likely to remain in some form.
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Under the rules, all travellers aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or lateral flow test before they travel to the UK from abroad.
The test must be taken in the two days before departure. For a multi-leg journey, the test must be taken within two days before the start of the first leg.
Everyone must also complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arriving in the UK.
In other measures aimed at combatting the virus, Boris Johnson announced all adults over 18 will be offered a booster jab in England before the end of the year.
The announcement came just hours after the UK’s Covid alert level was raised to four due to the spread of the new variant, which the PM said was becoming an “emergency”.
Isolation rules have also been altered, with vaccinated people in England who have been identified as close contacts of Covid cases now required to take daily lateral flow tests for seven days rather than isolating for 10.
But the new system – which will come into force from Tuesday – has already hit a speedbump, with the Government website battling to keep up with demand for tests.
Sources have claimed there are, however, plenty of available lateral flow tests, just not the infrastructure to keep up with the orders.
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