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UK introduces pre-departure Covid tests from Tuesday 7th

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The Government has announced this evening that pre-departure tests will be required for anyone landing in the UK after 4am on Tuesday for anyone travelling to the UK.

This is despite Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, telling The Daily Telegraph on Thursday that it wouldn’t happen, and that it would be ‘killing off the travel sector’.

A family of four will now be looking at £500 of testing purely to return to the UK – a lateral flow or PCR test before the flight and a PCR test after the flight – on top of any testing required by the country you are visiting. The cost could easily top £750 for a family.

The official wording is here.

Testing applies to arrivals aged 12 and over, with limited exceptions.

The test must be taken in the two days before departure. If you fly to the UK on a Wednesday, the test must be taken on Monday or Tuesday.

A lateral flow or PCR test is acceptable, as long as an acceptable certificate can be produced.

We reviewed the Qured video testing system here and I used it myself when returning from Spain in the Summer. It was an efficient system but clearly needs a degree of forward planning – anyone abroad now and returning to the UK on Tuesday will need to source a test locally.

The British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said in a statement:

“The blanket re-introduction of testing to enter the UK, on top of the current regime of isolation and PCR testing on arrival is completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science. Our customers will now be faced with uncertainty and chaos and yet again this a devasting blow for everyone who works in the travel industry.”

In a separate move, Nigeria will be added to the 10 Southern African countries on the ‘Red List’ from 4am on Monday. This will be a blow to British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, for whom Lagos is one of their most profitable routes.

Comments (375)

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  • Scott says:

    Question about Randox.

    Can easily pick up a lateral flow test from some random shop in London (would have been handy to get one from a test site that I’ll be at on Bath Road anyway).

    I need to install their app which seems to have reviews that makes BA IT look World class.

    So, is it actually not too bad trying load upload a picture of the test to them, and get a certificate via the app?

    Other places might take 4 days or whatever to get a kit to me, and I won’t be at home to receive it.
    Shame Collinson don’t seem to allow pickups.

    Secondly, I’ve still got a Simplytestme lateral flow that I bought for my day 2 test before things changed.
    Do they allow that to be used as my pre-departure test from the US?

  • Russell says:

    Feeling slightly smug that I misunderstood the requirements and brought a pre-departure Antigen test with me to the USA!

  • Rh says:

    I’m the same – brought 2 x C19 lateral flow ones with me to Maldives so will use them to get back! £29 each from memory compared to a lot more on the island!

    • roger says:

      Will it work though as I am not sure they will produce a “certificate”, which an airline might insist before letting you board the flight back to UK.

    • Matthew says:


      • Matthew says:

        Oops that’ll teach me to post after reading the first line. My apologies…

  • Dominic says:

    Frustrating though this is, it will help to slow the importation of Omicron. Won’t stop it, but buys time for the booster programme.

    Dislike it as a traveller, but the right move.

    • Roberto says:

      Lol keep drinking the kool aid pal

      • Dominic says:

        You can come up with comments meant to demean others, or you can look at the data and other evidence. You won’t stop variant imports, but you don’t need a PhD to work out that, in the early stages, fewer imported cases of a variant will slow the initial spread.

        • Roberto says:

          If all these measures worked the first time around why is coronavirus still here and spreading?

          “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”

          Lol go get your booster 🙂

          • Jon says:

            Because people who aren’t vaccinated give the virus a breeding ground to mutate?

          • AnnoyedByBuffoons says:

            Roberto: you haven’t said anything yet (of your many comments) that doesn’t make me conclude you are a complete clown. This whole thing may be a sh*t show, but I don’t see anyone doling out or lapping up Kool-Aid.

        • John says:

          It’s already here and spreading. The red list changes will reduce cases coming in but pre departure tests won’t in any meaningful way

          • Roberto says:

            The red list changes won’t reduce anything it’s already here and will spread exponentially anyway
            We have 45k cases every day in the UK anyway 😂 so it makes zero sense!
            Coronavirus will coronavirus at the end of the day just like it has been doing for the last 20 months.

        • John says:

          Dominic is one of the few sensible readers around.

          I love how BA CEO criticises the UK for pre travel tests but when the US does it no complaints then. Such a failure of leadership.

          • Dominic says:

            Indeed. The same guy claims that “no other country does this”.

            Clearly hasn’t flown to the UAE (nor the countless other countries that require it). I don’t suggest every measure is insanely effective; but we do need to slow the potential spread until we have got boosters out. I would be against prolonged measures that don’t address this key issue.

          • Dominic says:

            Roberto – the concern isn’t the number of cases. Govt has demonstrated they are not worried about this. Concern is new VoCs that we don’t understand.

          • Andrew says:

            I think it’s the pre-departure AND arrival test that’s a bit OTT – USA doesn’t require this.

          • Dominic says:

            Andrew – I don’t hold a hugely strong opinion on that, although on the flip side it is cheaper than a day 2 and 8 test that we have had to do previously.

            The idea is obviously that it could reduce in-flight infections which a day 2 test wouldn’t detect; though I cannot claim to know the exact data to validate whether that hypothesis is correct.

        • Char Char says:

          Yo don’t need a PHD to have common sense, that the exact thinking that’s driving all this nonsense. When the developer of the Oxford vaccine says no booster needed, who are you going to believe!

          • Dominic says:

            You will therefore be pleased to hear… I agree with Sarah Gilbert. We should absolutely have prioritised vaccinating the entire world ahead of our own booster programme. Unfortunately, we have been too slow in doing that – from January, we should donate hundreds of millions of vaccines, remove patent protection for the next 12-18 months (or build manufacturing capabilities in every region that does not have the required facilities at present).

            This is the only way to reliably reduce the threat of future variants; but we’ve missed the 7-8 month gap we’ve had between Omicron and Delta.

        • His Holyness says:

          Locking down for Omicron isn’t based on any “evidence” there isn’t any?

          • Dominic says:

            You’ll be pleased for me to inform you that we haven’t locked down, then!

      • BuildBackBetter says:

        It’s really simple to understand. The choice is between a rapid increase in cases in a short span of time with NHS crumbling again or a gradual spread that reduces burden for everyone.

        Good thing we don’t have Roberto running the nhs.

    • Char Char says:

      The blame it on “unvaccinated” is BS in the media

    • Track says:

      It will not even slow the spread of Omicron, if it is faster to spread it will.

      If Omicron is immunity-evading new ‘serotype”, a new specific vaccine will be required, and the booster effort is of less relevance/efficiency.

      The level of protection from double Pfizer jabs likely to be about the same with/without booster. Depending on time of your last jab of course. By all means take the booster jab, but don’t think you are significantly more ‘protected’ back to 90%+ efficiency.

    • Harry T says:

      Omicron is already here and spreading in the community. Travel restrictions are nonsensical and are primarily being put in place for political reasons aka Boris and his crew of goons have never reacted quickly or effectively in the past (remember Delta and India?). Travel restrictions make no sense when we have no meaningful restrictions in the UK itself – wearing a mask on the tube doesn’t mean anything when you can go to a full capacity pub or nightclub. Once a variant has gained a foothold, blocking travellers from other countries is nothing more than xenophobia disguised as policy – but this will appeal to the Tory base.

      Adding South Africa to the red list was essentially a form of discrimination against countries with effective genome sequencing and transparent scientific inquiry. Notice how the Netherlands has had omicron cases for weeks but remains off the red list?

      But, by all means, keep drinking the government Koolaid, preferably at a pub with your friends. Most transmission occurs with household mixing in hospitality and in homes. The omicron variant is already here. I’m sure everyone can do the maths here.

      • JDB says:

        I’m not sure why this has much to do with politics and if it does, these pre-departure have come about owing to ceaseless pressure from Yvette Cooper and Sir Keir – have you not heard them banging on about this on the TV & radio all week. It isn’t the Tory base that wants this at all!

        • meta says:

          YC ans KS are as xenophobic as the Tories… It’s in the genes of the majority of British politicians…

          • Spurs drive me mad says:

            David Lammy shadow foreign secretary.
            Who ever advises Starmer is having a right old laugh.

    • Dayle says:

      Does anyone genuinely still worry about this new variant? Isn’t that such sheeple mentality?

  • Safety Card says:

    Currently in Budapest. Land 9am on Tuesday. I’ve now spent £99 each for a 3-6 hour PCR on return to be able to get back to normal life quickly, plus £30 pp for a lateral flow here in Budapest. A country that has no cases of the new variant.

  • Rich says:

    Whilst I’m not a fan of all this testing, Sean Doyle’s assertion is incorrect. Plenty of other countries require testing pre arrival and on a much more stringent basis than the UK is introducing (e.g. Dubai requiring an in clinic ET-PCR test) and some are actually closed to most arrivals altogether (Austria).

    • Harry T says:

      Dubai doesn’t require you to be vaccinated though – they treat all travellers equally. And the UK has vaccinated a lot of people, unlike Austria…

      • Rich says:

        Harry you’ve fallen for the questionable reporting around vaccines, the UK is a mere 4% ahead of Austria 75% v 71% of population vaccinated. Source, our world in data. Anyway, I stand by my challenge that Doyle’s assertion is incorrect. For the record, I agree that all this testing around travel is unnecessary, but I am one who uses a LFT a few times a week and don’t need to be forced to test.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I believe the issue is that the U.K. has high penetration in the 50+ age groups where risk of hospitalisation is high. And actually pretty high penetration in all 18+ age groups.

          Austria on the other hand has c20% of its population unvaccinated in all age groups.

          Honestly, jabbing kids is madness when you have large %’s of 50+ without a jab. Focus in completely the wrong areas.

  • Char Char says:

    More nonsense when exports aroma the world are saying it’s nothing more to worry about. Clearly if this becomes true then ALL restrictions sold be removed, if not it’s a clear power abuse.

    • J says:

      Not just a power abuse, but dangerous policy. Better to have everyone infected by a ‘safe’ variant, in case a more dangerous one comes along next. The problem is that we don’t yet know. Hopefully if we do, restrictions will be quickly lifted. Not holding my breath though.

  • James says:

    Currently in a part of Spain where most pharmacies close on Sundays and this Monday is a national holiday – I’m finding it preferable to fly home a day early instead

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