Just when restrictions for international travel were beginning to ease, the government announced that as of 4.00am (GMT) on Tuesday 7th December 2021 all travellers over the age of 12 will need a negative PCR or lateral flow test to enter the UK.

The new restrictions have been put into place as concerns over the new Omicron variant continue to grow. It has already been detected in several counties across the world, with almost 250 confirmed cases in the UK alone. Case numbers are rising daily.

Anyone who fails to produce a negative test taken with 48 hours of departure will not be permitted to enter the UK, regardless of their vaccination status. Privately booked tests, NHS tests are not accepted, must either be taken in the country travellers are departing from or in a country enroute to the UK.  If a traveller tests positive for COVID they are required to remain in the country they are in and follow local rules.

Once in the UK, travellers over the age of five (eleven in Scotland) must take a PCR test two days after arrival. Self-isolation is required whilst awaiting results for both un-vaccinated and vaccinated people. Anyone who receives a negative result can end self-isolation.

Travellers are also required to complete a passenger locator form.

The red list has been reintroduced for eleven southern African countries. It is thought this is where the Omicron variant originated from. Only UK residents or UK/Irish nationals will be allowed to enter the UK from these countries, and 10-day compulsory quarantine period, in a pre-booked government facility, is required.

Already the new restrictions are causing chaos at airports with people arriving without negative test results. Travellers with upcoming trips are understandably concerned about re-entry to the UK with many saying they would prefer to delay their holiday. As the UK’s biggest booking day for holiday’s, Sunshine Saturday, approaches it comes as a big blow to the travel industry. It is not yet known how quickly the variant will spread or how dangerous it can be to those who catch it so understandably people are wary.

Travellers looking to rebook or cancel their holiday have a couple of options available to them. Firstly, those who booked a package holiday can speak to their provider. Many are allowing customers to move dates or apply for a refund, in the form of vouchers, if a covid-related incident prevents them from being able to travel at their chosen time. Travellers who have booked their holidays themselves will need to speak to their airline and accommodation provider separately: most airlines, except for a few, are allowing customers to change their dates, however accommodation changes will vary greatly between booking companies. If unsuccessful with the above, travellers can check the cancellation clause on their travel insurance policy.

We are yet to come across a provider who will offer to cover cancellation costs if the government moves the chosen destination for travel to the red list.  In addition, travel insurance policies will not cover costs for refused entry for not having the correct covid test or disinclination to travel. They will, however, cover costs if customers contract coronavirus abroad and are unable to return to the UK until a negative test can be provided. However, this cover is not common across the travel insurance market, and terms and conditions will differ between companies, so customers should be sure to read the cover available is suitable for their personal needs, before buying.

As always, if you have any questions or need help with a specific travel query please get in touch and a member of our dedicated team will be on hand to assist: hello@travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk