Britain adds pre-departure travel tests, bans travel from Nigeria amid Omicron fears

Britain adds pre-departure travel tests, bans travel from Nigeria amid Omicron fears

London: The UK has re-introduced compulsory pre-departure tests for all travellers entering the country and added Nigeria to its travel ban red list amid fears of the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The UK government said on Saturday that new analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which increases the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.

Therefore, starting Tuesday morning, anyone arriving in the UK is required to provide a pre-booked negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or lateral flow test taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and above.

"We knew this winter would be challenging but the arrival of a new variant means we must further strengthen our defences," said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid. "As our world-leading scientists continue to understand more about the Omicron variant we are taking decisive action to protect public health and the progress of our COVID-19 vaccination programme. I urge everyone to do their bit to slow the spread by following the new travel rules, wearing masks where mandatory and most importantly getting the booster jab when called," he said. Under current rules, travellers only needed to self-isolate until they tested negative within two days of arriving into the country.

Scientists have raised concerns that the heavily-mutated Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, may be more transmissible than the dominant Delta COVID strain and work remains ongoing to establish if it can escape immunity from the vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that in light of the emerging evidence and the changing global picture with regards to the spread of Omicron, airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside completed Passenger Locator Form, and passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result.

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