Since the Omicron variant was identified last week, the UK and countries around the world have made major changes to their travel rules.
While the Covid virus has complicated travel enormously, Omicron has turned the entire industry upside down again.
The rules change from day to day as restrictions are tightened and travel bans are reintroduced.
The most recent major change in the UK was the return of pre-departure tests for travelers arriving in the country.
People will be asked to take a lateral flow test, also known as a rapid test, or a PCR test within 48 hours of departure.
Not only are the rules changing rapidly, but they may also differ from Scotland to the rest of the UK.
If you understandably have trouble getting the rules straight, here are some of the recent travel changes you need to know.
What are the rules for Covid tests and travel?
Health Minister Sajid Javid announced yesterday that people arriving from a foreign country – with the exception of Ireland – must provide evidence of a negative rapid test or PCR taken within 48 hours of departure.
The new test requirement starts at 04:00 on Tuesday 7 December.
Until then, however, fully vaccinated travelers do not need to take a Covid test before departure.
After landing in the UK, take a PCR (rapid tests are not accepted) at the end of your second day in the country.
Travelers must order their PCR from a private company and pay for the test themselves.
People will be required to isolate themselves until they receive the results of their day two PCR.
A list of providers approved by the Scottish Government is available here.
What should I do if I am traveling from a country that is not red-listed?
The UK and Scottish Governments say that these travel rules only apply if you have been outside the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands for the 10 days prior to your arrival in Scotland.
Evidence of vaccination
If you are fully vaccinated, you must present proof.
People vaccinated in Scotland can use the NHS Scotland Vaccine Status app or a paper journal from the NHS.
The European digital Covid certificate is an acceptable proof for those who have been vaccinated in the EU or in other countries that use the certificate.
Individuals vaccinated in the United States can show their CDC card, New York Excelsior Pass Plus, California Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record, or Washington State WA Verify Pass as proof of your vaccine status.
Those vaccinated from other countries should see the instructions on the GOV.UK website here.
Book a day two PCR test
Individuals aged 11 and over must book and pay for a private PCR to take on day two and isolate until their results are back.
Fill out a passenger search form
Everyone, including UK nationals and people just traveling through the UK, must complete a Passenger Locator Form.
The form must be submitted within 48 hours of departure.
Which countries are on the red list?
There are currently ten countries on the red list with another to be added on Monday.
The government announced yesterday that Nigeria would be added to the red list from 1 p.m. 04.00 on 6 December.
Countries on the red list
- Nigeria – from 04.00 on 6 December
- South Africa
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What happens if I travel from a red list country?
Only British or Irish nationals, as well as persons with British residence rights, are allowed to enter the UK if they have visited a Red List country within the last 10 days prior to travel.
If you have visited a red list country, you will be quarantined in a hotel for 10 days and take PCR tests on days two and eight.
The hotel must be booked before arrival in Scotland, but travelers are not allowed to choose their hotel.
Hotel quarantine is not cheap – it costs an adult £ 2,285 with an extra £ 1,430 for another person and £ 325 for a child aged five to 11 years.
The Scottish Government’s website says you should not travel to red list countries.
What if I am unvaccinated?
If you are not fully vaccinated, you must:
- Take a Covid test before you arrive in Scotland
- Fill out a passenger search form
- Buy Covid day 2 and day 8 PCR tests
Release tests are an option for unvaccinated people in England but not Scotland.
What are the Covid Travel Rules in the United States?
A new U.S. requirement, coming into effect on December 6, means travelers to the United States must take a coronavirus test within 24 hours of departure.
Accepted tests include lateral flow tests and PCRs.
America’s new test rules will apply to everyone regardless of vaccination status and nationality.
Last month, the U.S. government began demanding that foreign travelers be fully vaccinated.
Now British travelers going to America must present proof of a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel, proof of vaccination as well as an ESTA visa waiver.
Travelers should consult the UK Foreign Office and the Scottish Government’s rules for the latest updates.
Make sure you stay up to date by checking the travel rules of other countries you plan to visit.