The new COVID-19 Omicron variant has come as a bit of a sucker punch to those with year-end travel plans.
Obviously travel to South Africa is now off the table, but we’ve seen other countries tighten their border measures as well. Just last night, it was announced that international travellers to Sydney and Melbourne would be required to self-isolate for 72 hours upon arrival.
COVID UPDATE: All international arrivals entering England must take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. pic.twitter.com/BuQcUzkFMb
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) November 27, 2021
Now the UK has announced stricter measures that take effect from 0400 hours on Tuesday, 30 November 2021. All international arrivals must self-isolate on arrival, until they can produce a negative PCR test result from their day 2 test.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be too disruptive for those of you planning to head over.
PCR test and self-isolation upon arrival in UK
Even before Omicron came on the scene, the UK already had what’s called the “day 2 test”, which required overseas arrivals to do a COVID-19 test on or before day 2. This could either be a PCR test, or the cheaper ART variety (referred to as a rapid lateral flow test in the UK).
From 0400 hours on Tuesday, 30 November 2021, this will change as follows:
|Test Type||Lateral Flow /PCR||PCR only|
|Timeline||On or before day 2||On or before day 2|
|Self-isolation||Not required||Required until negative result received|
As you can see, they’re tightening the type of test that can be done (PCR only), and adding a self-isolation requirement until a negative result is received.
Despite the name, you can do the day 2 test on or before day 2, which means you could take it as soon as you get off the plane. In fact, that’s probably the least disruptive to your overall travel plans.
Here’s some options at or around London Heathrow Airport.
|ExpressTest by Cignpost||T2, T3, T4, T5||£69||By 10 p.m next day|
|Randox||Radisson Blu hotel car park||£55||By 11.59 p.m next day|
|Collinson||Opp London Heathrow Marriott||£55||By 11.59 p.m next day|
|Heathrow Medical||Near T5||£55||“Next day turnaround”|
You may wonder why we’re not seeing express PCR options for day 2 tests, which should logically be in high demand given they could set you free in as little as a couple of hours. According to Collinson, its rapid PCR option does not qualify in its current form, and I’d assume the same would hold for many other mass-testing providers.
The government have set a qualifying criteria for acceptable Day 2 tests, as it stands now Rapid PCR does not qualify in it’s current form and is therefore not yet approved for Day 2 arrival.
— Collinson (@Collinson) November 29, 2021
Once you’ve done your test, proceed directly to your place of accommodation and isolate until the results are out. There is no restriction on the type of transport you can take, although the UK Gov says “only use public transport if you have no other option”.
A full guide to dos and don’ts for self-isolation can be found here.
Travellers to the UK can expect tightened testing requirements from next week, although it won’t be nearly as disruptive to your plans as the ones imposed by Australia. If you can afford the cost, taking a rapid PCR test at the airport could have you free in less than 3 hours.
The UK will also be reimposing the mask requirement in shops and public transport, although it will exempt hospitality settings.