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UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals – must isolate until results arrive

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Boris Johnson has announced new measures for anyone returning to the UK from a trip to any destination.

Everyone arriving in the UK will need to take a PCR test within two days of their return.

It is not clear when this will come into effect, as it presumably requires the publication of a Statutory Instrument which will appear here. Monday is probably the best bet. Whilst technically the announcement only applied to England, Scotland and Wales have already confirmed that they will follow suit.

EDIT: As this later article explains, it comes into effect at 4am on Tuesday.

UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals

In a major change from how the policy worked during the Summer, it will be compulsory to self-isolate until the result is known.

There will also be a return to mask wearing in shops and on public transport, although not in hospitality venues. This is effective from next week.

Anyone who has been in contact with anyone diagnosed with the new Omicron covid variant will have to self-isolate for 10 days irrespective of their vaccination status.

UK reintroduces compulsory PCR tests for arrivals

These rules will be introduced for a temporary period of three weeks and will be reviewed at that point.

In a separate announcement earlier on Saturday, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia were added to the ‘Red List’ of countries which will require hotel quarantine for anyone who has visited them within 10 days of returning to the UK. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini were placed on the list on Friday.

We will update this article as more details emerge. The official Government press release is here.

Comments (433)

  • Michael C says:

    No word on CTA, right?
    So I could arrive at LHR, hire a car, drive to Portsmouth and get the ferry to Jersey with hundreds of other people, all with no testing?

    • John says:

      Arrive from where? Jersey is likely to have test requirements too

      • Michael C says:

        Sure, but you’ll still have done a trip on a packed ferry first (UK so far have never imposed any testing if you’re just transiting to CTA)

        • John says:

          And you could take a packed train to Portsmouth. I thought you were required to travel directly to leave England if going to Jersey etc when restrictions applied.

    • GM says:

      CTA rules state that you can’t have been anywhere else in the past 10 days. So maybe they won’t check, but you’d be breaking them

  • H says:

    It has now been announced on the PLF website that the change applies from Tuesday – so I have cut my trip short for nothing!

    • Calum says:

      Can I just double check the URL you are referring to, as I’ve just checked the Government PLF site (not the various commercial sites) and still cannot see a reference to it.

      • Andrew says:

        Click “start now” on the PLF website and you get:

        From 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 testing and isolation requirements will change for all arrivals into the UK.

        If you are arriving into the UK after 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 then please return to complete your Passenger Locator Form after 04:00 Monday 29 November as the system is currently being updated.

        If you are arriving into the UK before 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 please continue to complete your Passenger Locator Form now.

        After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted and all travellers arriving into UK will be required to book and take COVID-19 PCR tests.

  • Jon says:

    Hope someone can help, struggling to find the answer. In a few weeks we land from Vegas at Heathrow at 10am then have a 5 hour wait until a flight back to Manchester. Can I get on the Manchester flight then do my PCR from home?

    • Andrew says:

      Yes. That’s the same as any other form of domestic public transport. In the same way as you could take the tube, then a train, then a taxi back to Manchester. There’s never been any rules about how you get home while you wait for day 2 and 8 tests for example.

    • James says:

      If you’re staying in the airport and transferring that counts as your journey back I’m sure so you should be able to do that

  • Andrew says:

    Masks in shops rule – presumably popping into Pret to get a takeaway coffee doesn’t require a mask as it’s a hospitality venue rather than a shop?

    • Ian says:

      Just pop a mask on for a few minutes.

      What harm will it do?

      • Track says:

        This is so stupid.

        Every time you touch mask with your fingers you pass hundreds of bacteria and more. This is regardless if you have FFP2 etc

        No one disposes masks after 3-4 hours and as said, you are not supposed to touch it once wearing.

        The surfaces of those masks, they are Petri dishes, all goes into your mouth.

        • ChrisC says:

          That’s why you should wash your hands / use alco gel on a regular basis!

          Friend of mine works for NHS Direct. He told me that for around a year since March 2020 the indidences of food poisoining plummeted for the simple reason people were practicing good hand hygiene. Once that stopped the incidence rate started to creep up and they are now at pre pandemic levels.

        • Track says:

          @ChrisC Except that those cheap alco gels are not very effective against the virus, I understand.

          But in some European countries, you are pushed by security to apply that cheap alco solution before entering shops and offices. I wonder if those serve to pass maybe other viruses and bacteria, just like kissing of relics in medieval times.

          Everyone has a beautiful device the nature designed for 100,000 of years to filter our the dirts, it is called nose.

          • GM says:

            Your nasal mucosa is how the virus enters (reason they’re looking into intranasal vaccines) so not entirely sure how you think the nose is protective. Cilia within the nostrils are more for dust and particles, not diseases.

            You do touch masks, but shouldn’t be touching the front with good mask hygiene. Apply and remove via straps. But either way, just clean your hands.

            Cheap alcohol gels fine if at least 60% alcohol, preferably 70%. Although the virus is airborne so fomite spread not as important. We should clean our hands for everything else though – true what commenter above said about food poisoning etc. People are clearly filthy.

            And just wear the mask going to Pret. Stop trying to find loopholes. Work on thw assumption that you *may* be helping to spare the workers etc (and the scientific studies do actually show that masks work, particularly if FFP2/N95, no matter what conspiracy theorists say). It’s kind of a sad rebellion to just want to breathe on people in a pandemic to prove a point.

          • Lady London says:

            I use the gel dispensers at the entrance to shops with my elbow. Also sometimes use them again on the way out!

            I prefer soap and water anyway and usually have some in the car

    • Ben says:

      Amazing how some middle class people feel rules shouldn’t apply to them.

    • James Harper says:

      In most other countries that have kept sensible Covid precautions in place, in a hospitality venue you need to wear a mask at all times unless seated. Let that be your guide.

      • Harry T says:

        Everyone knows covid can’t spread when you’re sitting down… only mobile people are at risk.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Yeah moronic isn’t it. Maskless for 95% of the times you’re in the place

      • illuminatus says:

        Except that there’s nothing sensible in wearing ‘a mask at all times unless seated’…

    • Novelty-Socks says:

      No probably not but where’s the harm, particularly if the staff are wearing them?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        The harm is as track mentioned.

        You should have as little hand interaction as you can with the mask

  • Tracey says:

    Do bubbles still exist? Thinking of a holiday going ahead and then getting pinged from someone on the return flight and having to isolate at home for 10 days. Can someone visit another household member when you are isolating? And join a household bubble?

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      In short no.
      And in longer: even when bubbles existed, they did not apply when isolating whether due to travel, contact or symptoms. (they were micro-exemptions from general lockdown rules that applied to everyone, not exemptions from personal isolation requirements. We’re no longer in lockdown so they’re irrelevant.).
      If you’re isolating then you’re isolating….

  • Nate says:

    Here’s a question I don’t think I’ve seen an answer for. My parents from the US are arriving to Heathrow Thursday morning, staying at an airport hotel, and flying out on Friday morning to Spain. Almost exactly 24 hours in the country, slightly over. Will they have to do the PCR test or can they just isolate at the hotel and treat it as a transit? Two separate tickets. Thanks!

    • Ben says:

      Slightly over 24hrs means they’d need a test, can they get an earlier flight out to Spain?

    • Richie says:

      Can they fly out on thursday evening 20:05 from Gatwick to Bilbao on the Vueling operated flight? It has BA and IB codeshares.

    • Anna says:

      Presume they are double jabbed as per new Spanish rules?

    • Big Dave says:

      Spain said from 1st December it will be placing all non-EU countries on its ‘red list’, meaning it will not admit anyone unless it is ‘essential travel’.

      • Lyn says:

        Are you sure about this? The information I have seen is that people coming to Spain from non-EU countries from December 1 will have to be fully vaccinated. This is very different to only allowing essential travel.

      • Gav says:

        Do you have a source for this? I agree with Lyn All info I can see is that you have to be fully vaccinated.

  • johanna says:

    I wanted to travel to the UK tomorrow (30.11.) for three days (London). This is silly! I probably have to cancel my trip! Or are there other options???

  • Andrew says:

    If a family member is visiting for Christmas from outside the CTA, does “self isolation” count if it’s at the family home where they are visiting or do they need to book a hotel and isolate on their own until the results arrive?

    • Rob says:

      You are allowed to isolate in a mixed house, this was always the rule.

      • Andrew says:

        Good to know, thanks for confirming Rob.

      • LS says:

        You are allowed to isolate in a mixed house. But everyone in that mixed house must isolate too…

        • Rob says:

          As you don’t even need to isolate when someone in your house has tested positive, if vaxxed, I doubt that.

    • John says:

      The risk now is that if the traveller gets omicron on the way there, everyone in the house can no longer leave

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Yes all Close contacts will need to isolate (for now)

        • Rob says:

          As Passenger Locator Forms no longer ask for seat number, this will mean everyone on your aircraft irrespective of where you sit.

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