Travellers to the UK will be required to take pre-departure Covid-19 tests, the Government has announced.
The new measure, to limit the spread of the Omicron variant, applies to everyone visiting the UK or returning from a holiday, regardless of vaccination status.
It will come into effect from from 4am on Tuesday, December 7.
And - from 4am Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the Red List will be required to take a pre-departure test, regardless of their vaccination status. 2/3
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) December 4, 2021
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the move was because of an “increasing number of cases linked to travel”.
Nigeria is also being added to the travel red list - joining several southern African nations which were added after the Omicron variant was first detected late last month.
That change comes in from 4am on Monday, with Mr Javid saying Nigeria “is second only to South Africa for cases linked to Omicron”.
Mr Javid acknowledged that the measures are “hugely unfortunate” for people who already had travel plans, but insisted that they would be “temporary”.
“We want to remove them as soon as we possibly can,” he added.
Scotland and Wales have followed suit.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “As the scientists work to understand new Omicron variant we need to apply additional caution until picture is clearer.
“We appreciate this will be difficult for the travel sector as we prioritise public health & protect the progress of our world-leading vax & booster programme.”
Meanwhile, shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “Finally the Health Secretary accepts Labour’s call for pre-departure tests, but why up to 48 hours before flight?”
He also called for further action including increasing the number of booster jabs given to 500,000 per day.
The introduction of pre-departure Covid tests for travellers entering England has been branded a “devastating blow” for travel by the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association.
Karen Dee said that the policy, beginning on December 7, will act as a “major deterrent” to travel.
“This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said.
Meanwhile, the chief executive of Airlines UK said the Government’s rapid change in entry requirements has made it “impossible” for the travel industry to plan ahead.
The UK Health Security Agency said a further 26 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, with 25 of these in England.
It means the total number of confirmed cases of the variant in the UK now stands at 160, the agency said.
A further 42,848 cases were also reported, according to official figures.