The return of pre-departure tests for travellers heading to the UK has been described by the travel industry as a ‘hammer blow’ to the sector.

From 04:00 GMT on Tuesday everyone aged 12 and over will have to take a test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving.

The government said the tightening of the rules was necessary because of an increase in cases of the Omicron variant linked to foreign travel.

It came as the latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency on Saturday showed a further 26 cases of the Omicron variant had been reported across the UK – taking the total so far to 160.

Scientists have raised concerns that the heavily-mutated variant may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain and be able to escape immunity from vaccines.

Under the changes, travellers will be required to show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure, the government announced in a press release.

Currently, travellers only need to self-isolate until they test negative within two days of arriving into the country.

The government said the change to the rules followed new analysis from the UK Health and Security Agency that indicates the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant.

This increases the effectiveness of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel, the government said.

The only people allowed to enter the UK from red list countries are UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents, and they must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

The Labour party had called for pre-departure tests to be brought in, with Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper saying she was ‘relieved’ it was now happening, but wished ministers had acted faster.

Prof Mark Woolhouse, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said the latest restrictions had come in ‘too late’ to make a ‘material difference’ to the course of a potential Omicron wave in the UK.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: ‘I think it may be a case of shutting the stable door Top Site Info after the horse has bolted,’ adding that community transmission would drive an Omicron wave in the UK if there was to be one.

Prof Woolhouse added that the numbers of UK Omicron cases were currently ‘quite small’ and Top Site Info he strongly suspected the absolute number was ‘more in the hundreds than the thousands’.

But he warned Omicron was ‘spreading pretty rapidly’ in the UK, and if current trends here and in South Africa continued in the coming weeks and months, it could even replace the Delta variant around the world.

However, travel industry bosses said they had not been given sufficient warning of the change.

Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said: ‘The introduction of pre-departure testing with little warning is a hammer blow to the business travel industry.’

‘Public safety is a priority, but businesses will fail, travellers will be stranded and livelihoods devastated by the lack of coherent plans from government,’ he added.If you beloved this write-up and you would like to obtain additional facts regarding Top Site Info (simply click the up coming internet site) kindly check out our own web page.