The UK government has reintroduced the need for anyone arriving in the UK to take a PCR and self-isolate until a negative test result arrives. It has also extended the traffic light “red list” to apply to arrivals from 10 southern African nations.

The new rules come as UK officials investigate whether the new Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, poses a threat to British citizens.

All arrivals to the UK (including British residents) must now book a PCR test to be taken on their arrival or within the following two days.

What are the new rules for PCR tests?

The PCR test requirement applies to all travellers – including those who are fully vaccinated. Children aged five to 18 in the UK travelling with a fully vaccinated guardian must also take the test. Although, children under 11 in Scotland do not need to take a PCR test. NHS PCR tests cannot be used – the test must be paid for and carried out by a private test provider. Travellers must continue to self-isolate upon their arrival until they receive a negative test result. After a negative result is received, travellers no longer need to isolate.

However, anyone who receives a positive test result must self-isolate for 10 days from the date of their positive test result. If a test result does not arrive, travellers must continue isolating until the test result arrives, up to a maximum of two weeks.

Unvaccinated travellers must still take a pre-departure test before their return to the UK, take a PCR test on days two and eight of their arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days.

All travellers must continue to complete a passenger locator form up to 48 hours before they return to the UK.

It’s also worth knowing that some travel insurance policies will cover any accommodation or new transportation costs if a traveller was to test positive for Covid-19 and have to isolate while abroad. However, it is worth noting that this cover is not available as standard so travellers will need to check their desired policies terms and conditions.

What are my rights if I have already booked a lateral flow test?

Anyone due to travel in the coming days who have already booked and paid for a lateral flow test should get in touch with their test provider and request a refund.

Test providers are unlikely to offer a refund if the testing kit has already arrived. Additionally, some providers exclude changes after the order is placed and therefore are unlikely to issue a refund. It’s always worth checking the provider’s terms and conditions to see their grounds for a refund.

What countries are on the “red list”?

Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are currently on the UK government’s “red list”. Anyone arriving in the UK from these destinations is required to isolate for 11 nights at a government-approved quarantine hotel. Travellers can register for hotel quarantine here.

Arrivals from these destinations must be aware that they are responsible for the hotel cost (which includes all meals and two PCR tests) and this cannot be claimed back through their travel insurance provider.