Omicron variant: UK places Nigeria on red list

Fully vaccinated travellers will be required to take pre-departure Covid-19 tests before coming to, or returning to the UK, despite the Transport Secretary warning that such a move could “kill off the travel sector again”.

On Saturday afternoon, the Cabinet’s Covid operations sub-committee signed off on proposals to reintroduce a requirement for all travellers to take tests before coming to the country, coming into force from 4 am on Tuesday, in an attempt to slow down the spread of omicron.

Ministers also agreed to place Nigeria on the travel red list, also from 4 am on Tuesday, requiring arrivals to quarantine for 11 nights in a government-approved hotel at a cost of up to £2,285.

Sajid Javid said: “These are temporary measures. We want to remove them as soon as we possibly can. [Omicron] is growing and we expect many more cases.”

Regarding Nigeria, he added: “We have learnt of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria. There are 27 cases already in England and that’s growing. Nigeria is now second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to omicron.”

The announcement came as Lord Tyrie, the former head of the competition watchdog, warned that holidaymakers faced a return to “overpriced, unreliable and substandard” PCR tests.

Under the new rule, those coming to the UK will be required to take a PCR or lateral flow test 48 hours before their flight.

The decision to reintroduce pre-departure tests was intended to slow the spread of omicron.

Sources said ministers had acted on the basis of data that suggested patients with the variant become infectious more quickly than those with delta.

The airline industry accused the Government of rushing into the restrictions with insufficient information, following a devastating period for the sector since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “We don’t know what this is yet and it is premature to hit industry and passengers before we see the full data.

“The red list extension made complete sense – that’s what it’s there for – but we know from experience that blanket restrictions do not stop the importation of variants. It’s already here.

“They’ve now changed their travel advice twice within a week. It’s impossible for anyone to plan.

Last week Mr Shapps said he hoped Britain would not reintroduce pre-departure tests telling Chopper’s Politics Podcast: “Do you want to kill off the travel sector again without knowing that you need to? Or do you want to take the right level of calibrated response?

“This Government thinks we should take a calibrated response, which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this [pandemic] … I believe in transport and I don’t want to see a world where we’re always finding excuses to restrict it. Of course, you’ve got to respond responsibly. That’s what I think we’ve done.”

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