The Boris Johnson government on Monday tightened rules in light of the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, including making it mandatory for arriving passengers from Tuesday to take PCR tests, instead of the current and cheaper lateral flow tests.
Officials said the measures were temporary and precautionary to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, where six more cases were found on Monday, taking the number of such cases to nine. The UK is likely to provide booster doses to all those above 18 years old.
From 4am on Tuesday, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.
All travellers arriving into the country from 4am on Tuesday will be required to take a PCR test on or before Day 2 and self-isolate until they have received a negative test result. These PCR tests can be purchased from private providers.
Free tests available from the National Health Service (NHS) are not valid for this purpose, the officials added.
All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant are also required to isolate for 10 days regardless of whether they have been vaccinated.
As medical and scientific personnel undertook steps to meet the new virus challenge, Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency said: “Our advanced sequencing capabilities enable us to find variants and take rapid action to limit onward spread. It is very likely that we will find more cases over the coming days as we are seeing in other countries globally and as we increase case detection through focussed contact tracing”.
She added: “We are continuing our efforts to understand the effect of this variant on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, anti-body response and vaccine efficacy. It’s critical that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately”.
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