Dec. 4 (UPI) — Health officials in Britain have announced that all international visitors will be required to take a COVID-19 test before traveling in a bid to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
The new rules, published on the website for the Department of Health and Social Care, note that PCR or lateral flow COVID-19 tests must be taken within two days of traveling to Britain “whether vaccinated or not.”
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, urged travelers to abide by the new rules and wear masks when mandatory, as well as get booster shots against the vaccine.
“We knew this winter would be challenging but the arrival of a new variant means we must further strengthen our defenses,” Javid said.
“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 program.”
The department told The Guardian that the pre-departure coronavirus test rules apply to all of the devolved nations, being England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. They will go into effect at 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
Children under the age of 11 are exempt from taking the test, the website notes.
Officials said that National Health Service tests cannot be used for the purpose of pre-departure testing – and airlines will be required to check each passenger’s pre-departure tests for evidence of a negative test result.
“You cannot take an NHS test abroad with you to use on yourself before you return,” the website reads.
Travelers from red list countries must abide by further restrictions, including taking a COVID-19 test within three days before traveling to Britain and booking a quarantine hotel package for 10 days — even if fully vaccinated.
With the new rules, Britain has added Nigeria to the travel red list beginning at 4 a.m. on Monday after 21 cases of the omicron reported in England have been linked to travel from the country. There have been 134 cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in Britain.