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Heathrow and Gatwick: PCR rule changes anyone with a Christmas holiday booked needs to know

MyLondon logo MyLondon 29/11/2021 Ben Kempton

Anyone planning on a holiday during the Christmas period will need to know about the changes to PCR rules.

Festive getaways for families across the UK have been put on the back-burner after experts said that they faced days of quarantine awaiting PCR test results.

Passengers arriving in the UK from non-red list countries after 4am tomorrow (November 30) will be required to take a PCR test on or before their second day in the country.

READ MORE: The 10 countries on the extended travel red list as Omicron variant spreads

They also must isolate themselves until they receive a negative test result.

To make matters worse for those hoping for a holiday, Scottish and Welsh First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have written to the Prime Minister demanding that all passengers arriving in the UK quarantine for eight days.

All arrivals to the UK will have to take PCR tests, irrespective of whether or not they have been double-vaccinated © Hollie Adams/Getty Images All arrivals to the UK will have to take PCR tests, irrespective of whether or not they have been double-vaccinated

They wrote: “Public health advice is unequivocal that this is the best and safest way to protect against the importation of this variant to the fullest extent possible.”

The first ministers called on Boris Johnson to hold a meeting of Cobra “as soon as possible” to discuss border measures.

“We would wish to use that opportunity to see the latest evidence from UK government health professionals on the variant and the understand the international picture along with the implications that it might have for the UK,” they added.

The Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday that all arrivals would be required to take PCR tests is irrespective of whether or not they have been double-vaccinated.

The new measures, in response to discovery of the Omicron variant, will be reviewed every three weeks.

Private “at home” PCR tests typically cost between £60 and £80 and passengers are not permitted to use free NHS tests for travel.

It is also possible to be tested on arrival at most UK airports, however these tests are substantially more expensive, with providers at Heathrow and Gatwick charging £119.

Rory Boland, the editor of Which? Travel, said that passengers should choose carefully when booking PCR tests.

He said: “Some private test providers are not fit for purpose...We know there are some, including some on the government list, that can take days to return test results, if at all.

“Our research found that the PCR testing market isn’t working with serious implication not just for travellers but public health more generally.

“We urge those thinking of travelling to only book with test providers that have a good record of providing test kits and processing results on time.”

Government rules state that if your PCR test results are delayed, you must self-isolate until your test result is known or until day 14 after arrival, whichever is sooner.

Defending the new PCR test rules, the Government said that the introduction of the measures are “proportionate and balanced”.

“Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told Time Radio: “Whether it’s isolation rules, whether it’s mask rules or others, we need to listen to the very best advice and take a proportionate and balanced response.

“I think we have done just that.”

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