The UK government tightened testing requirements for inbound travel once again over the weekend.
From Tuesday, vaccinated travellers wishing to enter the country must take a pre-departure test and present a negative result, as well as taking a PCR test within two days of arrival. They must self-isolate until a negative result is returned.
The addition of a pre-departure test for double-jabbed passengers will apply to those aged 12 and over travelling to the UK from any foreign country except Ireland and Ethiopia.
In addition, Nigeria was added to the red list from 4am on Monday. The changes are in response to concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus following 21 cases of omicron reported in England that were linked to travel from Nigeria.
Elsewhere, Thailand has pushed back easing its own travel entry requirements in response to the omicron variant.
All arrivals will now have to take a PCR test shortly after entering Thailand, while travellers from seven countries are barred from entry.
Follow all the latest travel updates below:
New testing rules could cost families £400-800 per trip
The government’s latest travel testing rules could cost families between £400 and £800 per holiday, travel industry figures have estimated.
Two rule changes in the past fortnight have substantially increased testing costs for British travellers, causing many travel CEOs to speak up about the impact on the recovery of the travel industry.
On 27 November, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that PCR tests would once again be mandatory for fully vaccinated travellers – meaning paying around £40-120 per test rather than £20-30 for a lateral flow or antigen test.
On 4 December Mr Shapps added to the new rule by reintroducing “pre-departure” tests for all travellers to the UK from all destinations.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 17:41
‘Arbitrary’ travel rules are ‘ridiculous’, says travel CEO
A travel industry figure has criticised the new testing rules and time frames imposed on travellers in recent days, calling the measures “arbitrary” and “ridiculous”.
Advantage Travel Partnership CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said tweeted: “Before departing Heathrow happened to speak to a distressed traveller en route back to Italy who took her PCR test just outside the required 48hr before arrival rule imposed by Italian authorities.
“These arbitrary rules are ridiculous. Too complex and inconsistent.”
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 17:14
Test provider Collinson blames results delays on ‘logistical issue’
One of the UK’s leading travel test providers, Collinson, has blamed delays on providing results on “a logistical issue at a testing lab”.
Arriving travellers must self-isolate until they receive a negative result to their post-arrival tests. Collinson has testing centres at several major UK airports. Users of its standard post-arrival PCR test are promised a result in 36 to 48 hours.
Many customers have complained about long delays on social media – including Jo Allen, who tweeted: “Please can somebody come back to me. Now over 90 hours since I was tested.
“I travelled to the UK on Thursday in good time for my Nan’s funeral which is tomorrow. My partner arrived on Saturday and tested at the same centre and received results in just over 24 hours.
“Losing count of how many times I’ve contacted them, still no response.”
Dean C tweeted: “If you are looking for a day 2 PCR test then I would avoid @Collinston.
“Their result within 48 hour test took almost 66 hours in which time I was under house arrest and unable to take my kids to school this morning.”
A spokesperson for Collinson told The Independent: “Due to a logistical issue at one of our labs, a small number of tests were delayed – this affected less than 6 per cent of tests conducted.
“We and our testing partners are scaling back up rapidly to meet additional demand being created by short notice changes to regulations.
“This is to ensure we can prevent a similar recurrence of what we experienced over the weekend.”
Simon Calder6 December 2021 16:59
British Airways website down, users report
British Airways’ website is down, according to users and reporting site downdetector.co.uk.
“How long will the British Airways system be down for ? I have tried all afternoon and no joy,” tweeted Sue Mason.
“I’m getting an Error 403 when I try to access your website. It looks like I’m not the only one. Can you please sort this,” Joey Ryan tweeted the official @British_Airways account.
Meanwhile, Twitter user Martin posted a series of error messages he encountered on the website.
Many travellers are having to rebook or amend travel plans due to the latest rule changes from the government, announced on Saturday.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 16:04
EU omicron travel bans could be lifted in a week
European Union health ministers will meet on Tuesday to consider whether to adjust or lift travel restrictions imposed by member states on southern African countries, Bloomberg News is reporting.
According to a diplomatic source, EU leaders may decide to impose additional testing on arrivals from those countries rather than keeping an outright ban.
Leaders of countries such as South Africa and Nigeria have criticised the EU, UK and US “travel bans” on their countries after the emergence of the omicron variant.
The variant has been detected in a number of southern African countries as well as nations including the UK, the Netherlands and Australia.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 15:30
New travel rules ‘a punch in the stomach’ for industry – travel boss
Gary Lewis, CEO of the Travel Network Group, representing more than 1,200 travel firms in the UK, has hit out at the UK government’s latest additions to its travel restrictions, calling them “a punch in the stomach for the travel industry”.
“The latest Covid travel announcements are a punch in the stomach for the travel industry just as we approach the important Christmas period, the ski season and the traditional January summer holiday booking peak.
“Calm, proportionate responses based on data is all we have continually asked for. Then, if a decision is made of national importance and safety, the government should be doing everything to support those industries most affected.
“The travel industry has taken on huge debts to service customers throughout this crisis without earning any profits from the impact of customer refunds and cancellations. We need the government to provide a package of financial support to ensure survival against the impact of these latest announcements.”
In a statement to press today, Lewis referred to the new rules as a “knee-jerk government reaction”.
“If the government decides to impose a decision, the consequences for the travel industry should be thought through and direct, immediate financial support offered,” wrote Lewis in a statement today.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 14:19
Travellers spending £400+ per couple getting back from UK
British travellers are having to spend hundreds per test on short-notice testing following the UK’s change to the travel rules this week.
Chris Hooper today tweeted his MP, Peter Gibson, to express frustration at having had to add around £425 in unforeseen testing costs to a trip to New York.
“Two of your constituents returning to the UK from NYC on Tuesday afternoon after the rules change… 2 x pre departure tests $300 [£226] at JFK and 2 x Day 2 PCR test £198. Merry Christmas,” he wrote, adding the crying emoji.
Another traveller expressed frustration at having to take three different tests to leave the UK for 72 hours.
“Leaving the UK for 72 hours and need three different tests . Ridiculous,” tweeted Harriet Torode.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 13:04
Nigeria ban is ‘travel apartheid’ says country’s high commissioner
Nigeria’s high commissioner has called the UK’s decision to move the country to the red list “travel apartheid”.
Speaking to the BBC earlier today, Sarafa Tunji Isola said: “What is expected is a global approach, not selective.”
“The travel ban is apartheid in the sense that we are not dealing with an endemic,” Mr Isola told the BBC’s Today programme.
“We are dealing with a pandemic. Whenever we have a challenge there must be collaboration.”
Conservative MP Kit Malthouse said the wording was “very unfortunate language”.
“We understand the difficulties that [are] created by these travel restrictions, but we’re trying to buy a little bit of time so that our scientists can work on the virus and assess how difficult it’s going to be” he told the BBC.
Simon Calder6 December 2021 12:38
Disabled traveller stranded in France after SNCF refuses ramp assistance
Wheelchair user Jacob Berkson travelled from London St Pancras station to Paris Gare du Nord on 30 November with a friend, Martin Hill, before transferring to Paris Montparnasse station in order to connect to Rennes.
However, Mr Berkson says SNCF staff refused to attach a ramp to two separate trains in order for him to board, leaving him to find overnight accommodation and pay for new tickets for a train the following day.
Now, he says, he is stuck in Rennes where he has not been able to pre-arrange a ramp for his journey home via Paris.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 12:10
Re-introduction of pre-departure tests ‘political posturing’, claims travel association
A travel association has called the UK government’s re-introduction of pre-departure tests for travel ‘political posturing’.
Danny Callaghan, CEO of the Latin American Travel Association, said: “The reintroduction of pre-departure PCR tests is nothing more than political posturing to give the impression of ‘doing something’ about omicron, when it’s already here.
“Even the red-listing of African countries makes no sense when omicron is also present in European countries which, one has to assume, are not on that list for political reasons.
“There seems to be plenty of awareness of the potential impact for the hospitality sector, with ministers continuing to encourage the public to hold parties and the facemask rules not extending to pubs and restaurants but, yet again, the travel industry is left twisting in the wind by the government.”
Helen Coffey6 December 2021 10:57