Travel news – latest: UK travel testing changes and red list updates set to begin
The UK government tightened testing requirements for inbound travel once again over the weekend.
From Tuesday, vaccinated travellers wishing to enter the country must take a pre-departure test and present a negative result, as well as taking a PCR test within two days of arrival. They must self-isolate until a negative result is returned.
The addition of a pre-departure test for double-jabbed passengers will apply to those aged 12 and over travelling to the UK from any foreign country except Ireland and Ethiopia.
In addition, Nigeria was added to the red list from 4am on Monday. The changes are in response to concerns about the spread of the omicron variant of coronavirus following 21 cases of omicron reported in England that were linked to travel from Nigeria.
Elsewhere, Thailand has pushed back easing its own travel entry requirements in response to the omicron variant.
All arrivals will now have to take a PCR test shortly after entering Thailand, while travellers from seven countries are barred from entry.
Follow all the latest travel updates below:
Travellers spending £400+ per couple getting back from UK
British travellers are having to spend hundreds per test on short-notice testing following the UK’s change to the travel rules this week.
Chris Hooper today tweeted his MP, Peter Gibson, to express frustration at having had to add around £425 in unforeseen testing costs to a trip to New York.
“Two of your constituents returning to the UK from NYC on Tuesday afternoon after the rules change… 2 x pre departure tests $300 [£226] at JFK and 2 x Day 2 PCR test £198. Merry Christmas,” he wrote, adding the crying emoji.
Another traveller expressed frustration at having to take three different tests to leave the UK for 72 hours.
“Leaving the UK for 72 hours and need three different tests . Ridiculous,” tweeted Harriet Torode.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 13:04
Nigeria ban is ‘travel apartheid’ says country’s high commissioner
Nigeria’s high commissioner has called the UK’s decision to move the country to the red list “travel apartheid”.
Speaking to the BBC earlier today, Sarafa Tunji Isola said: “What is expected is a global approach, not selective.”
“The travel ban is apartheid in the sense that we are not dealing with an endemic,” Mr Isola told the BBC’s Today programme.
“We are dealing with a pandemic. Whenever we have a challenge there must be collaboration.”
Conservative MP Kit Malthouse said the wording was “very unfortunate language”.
“We understand the difficulties that [are] created by these travel restrictions, but we’re trying to buy a little bit of time so that our scientists can work on the virus and assess how difficult it’s going to be” he told the BBC.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 12:38
Disabled traveller stranded in France after SNCF refuses ramp assistance
A disabled traveller and his friend are stranded in France after a nightmare journey both ways, where staff at rail company SNCF allegedly refused them ramp assistance on multiple occasions.
Wheelchair user Jacob Berkson travelled from London St Pancras station to Paris Gare du Nord on 30 November with a friend, Martin Hill, before transferring to Paris Montparnasse station in order to connect to Rennes.
However, Mr Berkson says SNCF staff refused to attach a ramp to two separate trains in order for him to board, leaving him to find overnight accommodation and pay for new tickets for a train the following day.
Now, he says, he is stuck in Rennes where he has not been able to pre-arrange a ramp for his journey home via Paris.
Lucy Thackray6 December 2021 12:10
Re-introduction of pre-departure tests ‘political posturing’, claims travel association
A travel association has called the UK government’s re-introduction of pre-departure tests for travel ‘political posturing’.
Danny Callaghan, CEO of the Latin American Travel Association, said: “The reintroduction of pre-departure PCR tests is nothing more than political posturing to give the impression of ‘doing something’ about omicron, when it’s already here.
“Even the red-listing of African countries makes no sense when omicron is also present in European countries which, one has to assume, are not on that list for political reasons.
“There seems to be plenty of awareness of the potential impact for the hospitality sector, with ministers continuing to encourage the public to hold parties and the facemask rules not extending to pubs and restaurants but, yet again, the travel industry is left twisting in the wind by the government.”
Helen Coffey6 December 2021 10:57
Travel testing chaos as government gives conflicting timings on pre-departure tests
As travellers try to comply with the new demand for pre-departure testing to return to the UK, they face conflicting versions of the timeframe in which they must take a test.
On Saturday, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, said tests “will be required a maximum 48 hours before the departure time”.
The press release that accompanied the statement made the same assertion, claiming the timing was “no earlier than 48 hours before departure”.
But the official statement of the rules is: “From 4am 7 December, you can take the test any time in the two days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs.”
Simon Calder6 December 2021 09:22
British travellers stranded abroad due to quarantine hotel shortages
Hundreds of British travellers have found themselves stranded overseas in red list countries due to a shortage of space at quarantine hotels in the UK.
After a hiatus in which it was hoped the red list might be permanently scrapped, the British government unexpectedly added six African countries, followed by a further four, to the high-risk travel list, necessitating hotel quarantine for inbound travellers.
Nigeria was also added over the weekend, bringing the new red list total to 11 destinations.
The surprise change meant many Brits were stuck abroad when announcements were made; now, demand for arrivals travelling from red list nations is outstripping supply of quarantine hotel beds.
Helen Coffey6 December 2021 09:10
Nigeria added to red list from today
Nigeria has become the latest addition to the UK’s red list for travel, joining a further 10 African nations as of 4am today.
It means all arrivals from there will have to cough up thousands of pounds in advance to spend 11 nights in a government-mandated quarantine hotel.
Anyone who arrived from Nigeria before 4am on Monday deadline is “strongly encouraged to isolate at home, and their household should also self-isolate for 10 days starting with their arrival”.
The changes follow 21 cases of omicron reported in England that were linked to travel from Nigeria.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “In light of the most recent data we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant.
“Vaccines remain our first line of defence – the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
“Please get vaccinated or #GetBoosted as soon as you can.”
Helen Coffey6 December 2021 08:27
What are the UK’s new Covid testing rules for travel?
Testing rules for travellers to the UK will revert largely to where they were months ago, the health secretary has said.
The government has added extra Covid-19 checks for everyone aged 12 and over travelling to the UK from any foreign country except Ireland and Ethiopia. This is in addition to the PCR test on arrivals that was introduced on 30 November.
The move applies for travellers arriving from 4am on Tuesday 7 December.
Read our full explainer to find out exactly what the testing rules are for inbound arrivals:
Simon Calder6 December 2021 07:56
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest updates throughout the day.
Helen Coffey6 December 2021 07:52