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UK tightens travel testing rules amid omicron concerns

A covid testing centre sign at Heathrow Terminal 5 on November 28, 2021 in London, England. Following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant, whose mutations suggest greater transmissibility than previous virus strains, the United Kingdom imposed new restrictions on arriving travelers. From 04:00 today, people arriving from South Africa, Botswana, Lesostho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola will face mandatory hotel quarantine. From Tuesday, all international travelers must isolate until they return a negative PCR test, which must be taken by Day 2. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government tightened travel restrictions Saturday amid concerns about the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, saying all travelers arriving in England will need to take a COVID-19 test before they board their flight.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new rules will apply from 4 a.m. London time Tuesday.

“In light of the most recent data, we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant,” he said in a tweet.

Javid also added Nigeria to the U.K.’s travel “red list,” which means that arrivals from there will be banned except for U.K. and Irish residents, and those travellers must isolate in designated quarantine facilities. He said there was a “significant number” of omicron cases linked to travel with Nigeria, with 27 cases recorded in England.

Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the new measures will be a “major deterrent” to travel, just as airports and the travel industry were hoping for a small uplift over the festive season.

“This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said

Authorities recorded another 42,848 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. as of Saturday, with 127 more deaths. With over 145,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic, Britain has the second-highest virus death toll in Europe after Russia.

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