The travel industry is in disarray tonight over the announcement of new travel restrictions following the discovery of the super-mutant Omicron Covid strain in Britain.
The new rules were revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, where he appeared alongside Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Anyone who travels to the UK must now take a PCR test by the end of their second day after arrival, and remain in self-isolation until they have a negative result.
It is not yet clear when the rules will come into place as industry insiders demand further clarification.
Travel expert Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, told Mail Online: ‘This is terrible, terrible news for the industry.
The new rules were revealed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, where he appeared alongside Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance
Britain has sequenced two cases of the Omicron variant in Nottingham and Chelmsford, Sajid Javid said today
‘We need urgent clarification from the Government about when these rules will come into force.
‘Travellers planning on coming to the UK are now in limbo. We don’t know if the rules will be in place from tomorrow morning or next week.’
He added that the measures were a ‘major set back’ for the industry at a crucial time of year.
‘Everyone in the industry is feeling the same, this is going to be a very, very tough period,’ he added.
‘This is going to knock confidence in the industry during the very important Christmas period.
‘And it’s all over a variant we do not yet have all the facts about.’
Mr Charles added: ‘There are always going to be new variants, the government must have a better system in place than relying on travel bans.’
The travel boss said pre-departure and on-arrival testing would be a more ‘sensible’ approach to tackling the threat of new variants.
The new rules also state that all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected Omicron case must isolate for 10 days regardless of vaccination status.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to clarify the timescales of the new rules by Monday.
For those arriving to Britain, the day you land is deemed as Day 0. You must then perform a PCR test before the end of day 2.
So if you arrived on a Monday, the PCR must be taken before the end of Wednesday.
Previous travel testing rules specified that ‘day 2’ tests should be taken on or before day 2.
Mr Johnson also announced that facemasks on public transport and shops will be compulsory – although struggling bars and restaurants will be spared for now.
It marks the first time since last winter that restrictions have been tightened in England – although Scotland and Wales have previously responded to spiking infection rates.
The premier said the measures will be reviewed in three weeks
Another 39,567 Covid cases and 131 deaths were recorded in the UK today. Department of Health officials posted nearly 40,000 daily infections – down 3.36 per cent from 40,941 last Saturday – after Sajid Javid announced that two cases of the ‘monstrous’ new Covid variant were detected. The number of people who have died 28 days after testing positive for Covid has also fallen by 12.7 per cent from 150 last week
They do not quite go as far as the formal ‘Plan B’ outlined by the government in the summer, as Mr Johnson stopped short of bringing back orders to work from home where possible and introducing vaccine passports.
Four more countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola – will be added to the red list from 4am on Sunday. That means only British residents can come to this country, and they have to stay in a quarantine hotel.
South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia were put on the banned roster yesterday amid growing international panic about the ‘variant of concern’, which scientists fear is more transmissible and can dodge vaccines.
Earlier today, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that two cases of the strain were detected in Nottingham and Brentwood in Essex. Both are linked to travel to southern Africa, the suspected origin of the mutation.
The infected individuals and all members of their households have been told to self-isolate after the UK Health Security Agency confirmed the sequencing.
The Prime Minister said: ‘We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.
‘Second, we need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.
‘We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status.
‘We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.’
The Welsh Government and the Scottish goverment are mirroring the restrictions on international travel, and warning they could go even further.
Another 39,567 Covid cases were recorded in the UK today – down 3.36 per cent from 40,941 posted last Saturday – while the number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid fell by 12.7 per cent from 150 last week to 131.