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Travel to the U.K. just got a little tougher.
In light of the new Omicron variant, the United Kingdom has implemented some new entry protocols for travelers.
Effective December 7, the United Kingdom is requiring all international arrivals age 12 and older to take a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test no more than two days prior to departing for the U.K., regardless of vaccination status.
Before departing for the U.K., travelers from the U.S. will also need to book and pay for a second COVID-19 test (PCR) that must be taken within two days after arrival—it can be taken any time between arrival and day 2, the day of arrival being considered “day 0.” Travelers will need to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from that post-arrival test. Children age 11 and younger are exempt.
International travelers must complete a passenger locator form within 48 hours prior to arriving in England and will need to enter their COVID-19 test booking reference number on their passenger locator form.
Since August, vaccinated Americans have been able to travel to the United Kingdom without mandatory testing or quarantine. Unvaccinated Americans have been and continue to be required to quarantine for 10 days and submit to additional COVID testing.
Now, even those who are vaccinated must test and self-isolate for a bit until they get their COVID test results back.
“The measures are temporary and precautionary, and will be reviewed in three weeks,” a statement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office outlining the new regulations said. “They will be introduced as a precaution while more information is gathered and assessed on the variant’s transmissibility and any possible effect on our vaccines.”
As for other public health measures, face masks are now mandatory in stores, banks, post offices, and salons, as well as on public transportation. The U.K. government noted that hospitality settings are exempt from the new mask mandate.
In addition to the new self-isolation period for all travelers, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola have all been added to the U.K.’s “red list,” meaning travelers from those countries are barred from entering the U.K. unless they are citizens or residents.
“The Omicron variant contains a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome, with early indications suggesting this variant may be more transmissible,” the government stated. “The measures will give us time to slow down the spread of the variant as work continues internationally to fully understand how these mutations may change the behavior of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility.”
This story was originally published on November 30, 2021, and has been updated to include current information.
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