Travel column with Katie Butler: New Covid travel rules due to concerns over the Omicron variant

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What a whirlwind! In the space of two weeks we have seen day two tests change from lateral flow/antigen to PCR tests and then on Saturday evening the re-introduction of pre-departure tests to be taken prior to leaving for the UK.

Katie Butler writes: This sees the travel requirements for coming back to England, as double-vaccinated passengers, revert back to where we were in the summer.

Our focus at the start of this week was to look after all existing passengers who are already on holiday and advise on the new regulations which came into play December 7 at 4am (not leaving much time to organise tests).

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However, most destinations have testing facilities widely available and many hotels are offering the service in-house.

REQUIREMENTS: These differ depending on your vaccination status. Photo: Getty ImagesREQUIREMENTS: These differ depending on your vaccination status. Photo: Getty Images
REQUIREMENTS: These differ depending on your vaccination status. Photo: Getty Images

The new rules have been brought in because of concerns over the Omicron variant, and applies to all passengers aged 12 and above.

The measures have been described as temporary, with a review on December 20.

What are the new travel requirements for travel back to the UK?

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The requirements are very different dependent on vaccine status. For double-vaccinated passengers it remains much the same as they were earlier in the year. So, if you managed to get away in the summer the rules have reverted back to what they were then. A pre-departure test within 48 hours of coming back to England (which can be a lateral flow/antigen) and then a PCR test on or before day two of arriving home. Both of these have to be certified and NHS tests cannot be used. If you are un-vaccinated you need to do all the above but in addition take a second PCR test on day eight and self-isolate at home for 10 days.

Can I change my holiday as I don’t feel comfortable travelling this year?

This will depend on the operator it has been booked through and the terms and conditions of changing at short notice. Most operators are allowing changes, some with an administration fee and others without. Contact your travel provider as soon as possible, as the later you leave it, the higher the penalties to change may be.

And in other travel news!

Of course the United Kingdom was not the only country to impose temporary restrictions;

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All Cyprus arrivals will be required to take a PCR test on arrival at a local cost of 15 Euros.

France now requires proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to arrival.

Un-vaccinated adults or children aged over 11 will not be allowed to travel to Spain for the time being.

The USA reduced the test time limits, to a test to be taken just one day before your flight departs, as opposed to within 72 hours.

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A manic week at Total Travel HQ, with another bump in the road of the travel industry.

We will know more about the impact on travel restrictions going forward at the next review, which we are expecting around December 20.

Although we are super busy, we are, of course, still collecting gifts for our Christmas Toy Appeal.

Thank you so much for your donations so far,

We are on target to have our biggest collection yet!

■ If you have a specific travel question you would like Katie to answer in her column, please email: [email protected]