The Government of the United Kingdom has published a press release with new COVID-19 “targeted measures” coming into effect from November 30th, 2021.
The new rules are due to the Omicron variant, which recently arrived in England, Scotland, and Ireland, making a total of 18 cases out of 59 cases confirmed in Europe as of December 1st, 2021.
To help prevent the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the government has made face coverings mandatory in shops, banks, post offices, hair salons, public transport, etc. But it has also put into effect a new norm in regard to international arrivals.
From November 30th, 2021, all people coming from abroad must obtain a PCR test from a private provider and take it by the end of the second day after arrival in the UK. Travelers will be required to stay quarantined until they receive a negative result.
According to the press release, the UK Health Security Agency is performing targeted testing at places where the positive COVID-19 cases were more likely to have been particularly contagious. It’s also following up on confirmed cases and contacts and requesting isolation as needed in the middle of a campaign to stop the Omicron variant. Although this strain is still under investigation, scientists believe it’s more infectious due to the mutations detected in its spike proteins and other parts of its viral genome.
This is why all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, even if the cases haven’t been confirmed yet. This is a preventive measure that applies to children and fully vaccinated people as well. The NHS Test and Trace program will be contacting these people and insisting on the self-isolation norm, which by now is already a legal requirement. Failing to comply with instructions given by the NHS Test and Trace can be penalized with a fine.
The new measures come shortly after South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola were added to the UK’s travel red list due to the number of Omicron cases detected in the African continent. The Omicron variant was first detected in southern Africa by the end of November, particularly in South Africa and Botswana.
Today, there are cases in Réunion Island (near Mauritius), Nigeria, and Ghana as well. Other African countries were added to the UK’s red list of countries preventively. Even these countries are shutting down their borders to neighboring territories due to the Omicron variant.
Omicron infections are also augmenting in other continents. There are cases in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Ireland, and of course, the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant. Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defense, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted. Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for”.