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All travellers to UK must now take pre-departure virus test

LONDON: The UK government has announced that those travelling into the country will need to show a negative coronavirus test pre-departure, as it reintroduces Covid-19 restrictions due to the Omicron variant.

From 4am GMT tomorrow (noon, Singapore time), anyone travelling to the UK will have to show evidence of a negative lateral flow or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken within 48 hours before boarding a flight, the Health Department said late on Saturday.

This will apply to travellers aged over 12 from any country. Currently, travellers have to take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

The reintroduction of compulsory pre-departure testing has prompted an angry response from the travel industry.

The Business Travel Association said the measure would be a "hammer blow", while the Airport Operators Association said "pre-departure tests are a devastating blow, as they deter people from travelling".

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that he knew the new measure was a "burden for the travel industry" but stressed the UK needed to act.

"We've got to take the measures targeted forensically to stop the new variant seeding in this country to create a bigger problem." The government has vowed it "will take further decisive action if necessary to contain the virus and new variant".

The UK earlier banned flights from South Africa and put 10 African countries on its red list, meaning only UK and Irish citizens or UK residents can travel from there to the UK. Nigeria will join the list from today.

Experts cautioned that travel restrictions and bans will not halt the virus spread.

Statistician David Spiegelhalter, a University of Cambridge professor who co-authored a history of the pandemic, told Sky News that "travel restrictions at the moment are only going to slow things up a little bit... but they're not going to stop it (Omicron) and it's going to come in". - AFP

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