Covid rules: What are the new restrictions around travelling amid Omicron variant fears and when do they start

The Government has brought in a number of new restrictions around travelling from the UK as fears around the Omicron Covid variant grow.

Monday, 29th November 2021, 5:06 pm

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in July that all Covid rules would be lifted – and scrapped the ‘traffic light’ system for travelling in October – concerns are now rising over the Omicron variant which was first found in South Africa last week.

Early evidence suggests the variant has a higher infection risk and two cases have now been found in England – which are believed to be linked to travel to South Africa.

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The Prime Minister has introduced new Covid rules on travelling, including wearing masks on public transport and taking PCR tests, amid fears over the new Omicron variant. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images.

As the variant appears to be spreading rapidly – and Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there is ‘huge international concern’ over the new strain – vaccine manufacturers are working hard to make sure they can combat the concerns.

Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca have all been working on developing ways to change the current vaccine, in anticipation of new variants, which means a new vaccine could be distributed in just a few months time.

In the meantime, rules including wearing masks in shops and taking PCR tests while travelling have been reintroduced to help slow the spread.

Here are the latest rules on travelling from the UK.

International arrivals will have to take a PCR test on their second day in the UK under new Covid restrictions. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

What are the new Covid rules for UK travel?

The latest restrictions mean that face masks are once again mandatory in shops and on public transport.

The tougher rules have been enforced as the new strain has been dubbed the ‘worst ever’ coronavirus mutation and can spread ‘very rapidly’, as well as transmitting between people who are fully vaccinated.

All international arrivals will also have to take a PCR test by the end of their second day in the UK.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks time, according to Boris Johnson, and experts are looking at extending the booster jab programme to all over-18s.

The new rules will be enforceable by a penalty, meaning those who fail to comply will be fined.

Failure to wear a mask will result in a £200 fine for the first offence, but this charge will then double for any further rule breaks.

Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola have also been added to the red list for travel, alongside South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

When do the new Covid travel rules come into force?

The new rules around travel and mask-wearing will come into force at 4am on Tuesday, November 30.

Do we have to wear masks in all public places?

Wearing a mask in public places in England became strongly advised, but not compulsory, back in July.

However, the Prime Minister has now reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

It will still be at your discretion to wear a mask in pubs or restaurants, or at concerts or events.

This will bring the country back in line with the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who made wearing a mask mandatory in these places even when other restrictions were lifted.