The introduction of mandatory PCR testing for Covid-19 for anyone arriving in the UK has been described as a “blow” to the travel industry.
The move, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday, has been hailed by scientists as a way to save time to learn more about the Omicron variant.
There are now 10 countries on the government’s red list for travel, which means arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi , Mozambique and Zambia will need to be quarantined for 10 days.
But Abta, a trade association for tour operators and travel agents in the UK, said the additional cost of testing for all UK arrivals will impact customer demand for vacations, adding pressure on an industry that was among the “hardest hit” during the pandemic.
The announcement of the new testing requirement came after two cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed in the UK.
Without negative results, people will have to self-isolate for 10 days.
“As Abta understands that this is a rapidly evolving situation and public health must come first, the decision to require all arrivals to take a PCR test and self-isolate until that a negative result is returned is a blow to travel companies, many of which are just starting to recover after 20 months of severe restrictions, ”said a spokesperson for Abta.
“These changes will increase the cost of vacations for people, which will undoubtedly have an impact on consumer demand and hold back the recovery of the industry, so it is essential that this decision is carefully considered and that the restrictions are lifted quickly. if it becomes clear that there is no risk to the UK Vaccination Program.
“The government must now also consider offering tailored support to travel companies, which have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic. “
Scientists believe that increased testing will give time to better understand the risk Omicron could pose before the variant becomes mainstream in the UK.
Dr Nathalie MacDermott, Clinical Lecturer at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) at King’s College London, said: “The move to ban flights from the most affected countries is never a decision to be taken lightly.
“But for a short time, this may buy the time needed to better understand the threat posed by this new variant and ensure the implementation of more robust identification and targeted contact tracing for people arriving from these countries.” now placed on the red list.
“The government’s decision to re-implement the need for a PCR test for all people arriving in the UK from abroad on the second day, with self-isolation until a negative test is reported, well As frustrating for those who travel, is essential to quickly identify cases of Omicron variant infection and implement rapid isolation and targeted contact tracing to limit the spread of the variant in the UK.
Concerns have also been expressed about whether the testing industry can respond to a sudden increase in demand for testing.
Who? Travel editor Rory Boland said travelers will understand the need for the restrictions, but the private testing industry they will need to rely on “is not fit for purpose.”
“Testing companies have struggled to deliver tests on time over the past year, so it is difficult to be confident that they will be able to cope with this increased demand in the near term.” , did he declare.
“Now that the government has made the decision to make PCR testing mandatory, it must take measures to properly regulate the market and implement the recommendations of the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) so that consumers can have trust they reserve with a supplier they can count on. to.”