On Saturday December 4th the British government announced it would demand pre-departure tests for all arrivals from 4am on December 7th onwards.
These tests, which were scrapped only weeks ago, must be taken within two days of travel to the UK. They can be PCR or antigen tests and must be carried out by all travellers regardless of their vaccination status.
The requirement applies for those arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Day 2 PCR tests
On November 27th the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that PCR tests and self-isolation for UK arrivals would be reintroduced amid concerns of the new Omicron variant that was first identified in South Africa and has now been found in several people in mainland Europe and the UK.
The requirements came into force at 4am on Tuesday, November 30th.
This means that if you’re arriving in the UK after 4am on Tuesday, November 30th, you need to book and take PCR tests instead of lateral flow tests, which will no longer be accepted.
You’ll need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arriving in the UK and self-isolate until you get a negative test result.
This means you can only leave home if you need to buy essential supplies, such as food or medication (but only if no-one else can buy them for you), to take a test or for urgent medical care.
The potential problem with this change is that the UK testing system has been beset with problems.
For example, at least one private testing company is being investigated for failure to deliver PCR test results on time – or in some cases at all – meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for a long time.
And another is being looked into for providing thousands of incorrect negative results.
And Which? travel editor Rory Boland expressed concern about the testing companies and how they would cope with the additional demand, as he details in the below tweet, meaning people could be stuck in quarantine for days.
People regularly report missing test results, companies that never reply when you have a problem and fake prices from firms that don't exist.
When you do take a test, the UK government only carry out genomic sequencing on a handful of results submitted.
— Rory Boland (@roryboland) November 27, 2021
Forms to fill in
If you’re due to arrive before 4am on November 30th, you can complete the required Passenger Locator Form now, but if you’re arriving after that time, you’ll need to return to the website after 4am on Monday, November 29th as the system is being updated.
You need to fill one of these forms in, even if you’re just passing through the UK, and it needs to be completed 48 hours or less before you start your journey.
Lack of clarity
However, a few things remain unclear, including what the requirements are for people who are entering the UK for less than two days, and whether these could rule out short business trips.
The government is expected to reveal further details this week and we will be update this article as soon as further information is available.
Wearing face masks on public transport and in shops will also be mandatory again in England from Tuesday.
They are still required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on public transport and many indoor spaces.