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Travel news – live: PCR tests required from today as Hong Kong and Ecuador tighten entry rules

·9-min read
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Hong Kong and Ecuador are the two latest destinations to tighten their entry rules in the face of the new variant of concern, omicron.

Stricter border controls and harsher quarantine rules are being introduced across the globe in response to the new variant.

Hong Kong is barring non-residents from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, as well as all travellers who have visited Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy in the past 21 days.

Meanwhile Ecuador has closed its borders to arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Egypt, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia.

This follows Hong Kong banning arrivals from eight southern African countries last week.

From today, the UK government is demanding PCR tests for travel, just weeks after cheaper antigen (or lateral flow) tests were permitted.

PCR tests are vital for genomic sequencing, the process needed to detect the variant of the virus which causes each infection.

Follow all the latest travel news below:

Read More

Switzerland quarantine rules: Can I still go skiing in France if flying into Geneva?

PCR tests and self-isolation: What are the new rules for travellers?

Can I travel to Spain from the UK? All the rules you need to know

Key Points

  • Hong Kong, India and Ecuador latest to tighten entry rules

  • What are the new rules for travel testing from today?

Singapore to tighten entry restrictions

15:00 , Helen Coffey

Singapore is tightening entry restrictions and enhancing testing protocols for travellers arriving after 11.59pm on 2 December.

All air travellers entering or transiting through Singapore must undergo a pre-departure test within two days of their departure for Singapore. Vaccinated Brits will also have to undergo supervised, self-administered ART tests at a Quick Test Centre on day three and seven of their stay in Singapore.

Travellers who arrived between 12 and 27 November and had travelled to countries or regions affected by the omicron in the previous 14 days will have to go through a one-time “surveillance” PCR test.

These measures will continue for four weeks and will be reviewed and extended if necessary.

What PCR tests are available and how much do they cost?

14:38 , Simon Calder

The faster you want to leave quarantine, the more you are likely to pay for a day 2 PCR test on entry to the UK.

Tests at airports and other other transport locations are among the most expensive. Collinson is offering post-arrival tests for £69 at Heathrow, Gatwick, East Midlands, London City, Manchester and Stansted airports – as well as the O2 in east London. Many airlines can provide discount codes – for example BA20OFF – that give a 20 per cent discount.

Arriving travellers who are not in such a hurry can save significantly by opting for a 24- or 48-hour turnaround and/or self-administering tests.

Randox has a £48 home kit (again, discountable with a code such as Easyjet2021) and says: “For samples returned via standard drop box, we aim to provide next day results up to 11.59pm.”

Read our full explainer on the testing rules for travellers here:

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for travel works

Scotland has higher age exemption for travel testing than other three UK nations

14:30 , Simon Calder

In Scotland, children aged under 11 need not take a PCR test when travelling into the country - in the other three UK nations the exemption only pertains to those under the age of five.

The first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, wanted tougher travel rules, with eight days of mandatory self-isolation for all arrivals to the UK and a PCR test at the end.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We believe this would be more effective in detecting variants.”

Were the plan adopted, it would extend the minimum length of quarantine from a couple of hours to eight days. But it has been rejected by Downing Street.

Tourists transiting through Switzerland in under 24 hours ‘need not quarantine’

12:22 , Lucy Thackray

The Foreign Office has updated its guidelines for travel to Switzerland to clarify the quarantine rules for passengers transiting onward to another country.

“There is no quarantine requirement for travellers arriving in Switzerland from the UK who wish to travel onward to another country, as long as travel through Switzerland is less than 24 hours and does not involve a stopover,” reads the update on the FCDO’s Swiss entry requirements page.

There had been confusion around whether quarantine was required for those flying to Switzerland and travelling on to other countries by land rather than air, with some passengers bound for French or Italian resorts reportedly being turned away from Geneva airport over the weekend.

Read the full story:

Can I still go skiing in France if flying into Switzerland?

Ski operator suspends Switzerland trips

11:54 , Lucy Thackray

Ski experts Inghams have cancelled all December trips to Switzerland, following the country’s decision to impose a mandatory 10-day quarantine on all visitors from the UK.

“Following the news that Switzerland has imposed a 10 day quarantine on all UK arrivals, we have sadly suspended all December 2021 departures to Switzerland,” read a statement by CEO Joe Ponte.

“Customers impacted by this news are being offered the option to move their booking free of charge or to cancel their booking with a full refund.

“We are extremely disappointed for all our customers who were looking forward to a ski holiday in Switzerland in the coming month. Switzerland accounts for around 6% of the holidays in our winter programme, and booking numbers for the coming ski season have been strong.He emphasised that Inghams trips still have the flexibility to cope with travel rules changes, including being able to change your dates or destination up to 28 days before departure.

Ski holidays to Switzerland have been hit by the new travel rules (Getty Images)
Ski holidays to Switzerland have been hit by the new travel rules (Getty Images)

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador latest to tighten entry rules

10:54 , Helen Coffey

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador have all announced tighter travel restrictions in response to the omicron coronavirus variant, which is quickly spreading around the globe.

Hong Kong has broadened its travel ban on non-residents, with travellers who have visited Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Canada, Israel and Australia in the past 21 day barred from entering, along with those arriving from Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.

Vaccinated residents may enter the city but must quarantine for seven days in a government facility before isolating for a further two weeks in a hotel at their own expense – 21 days in total.

India is also implementing stricter guidelines for international travellers, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation; while Ecuador is demanding that all arrivals show proof of full vaccination, plus a negative Covid test, as well as banning visitors from six southern African countries.

Read the full story:

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador impose tighter entry restrictions for travellers

What are the new rules for travel testing from today?

10:18 , Lucy Thackray

Today sees the switch from lateral flow tests back to PCR tests for UK travellers, a measure announced by ministers last week after the omicron “variant of concern” was detected in England.

In a statement last Thursday, the Departments for Health and Transport said: “After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted.”

PCR tests are more expensive and slower to process, but allow positive tests to be sequenced to identify whether the omicron variant is involved.

The other big change from this week is that double jabbed travellers must self-isolate on arrival until a negative result comes through from their “day two” test - previously, fully vaccinated arrivals could take the test and go about their business until a result was received.

If your results are delayed, you must stay in isolation until they are confirmed, say government guidelines.

The rule change has generated confusion and further expense for travellers who had already arranged lateral flow tests around travel this week, and must now change their orders to a PCR.

Read the full story:

How the return of PCR tests and self-isolation for travel will work

South Africa travel ban is ‘bulls***’, says Daily Show host

09:43 , Lucy Thackray

US Daily Show host Trevor Noah has weighed in on the travel bans from multiple countries on South Africa and other southern African nations, calling the decision “bullsh***”.

Speaking on last night’s show, Noah, who is South African, said: “I think this travel ban is total bullsh***, I really do...

“Omicron has already been found in a dozen countries around the world. Right?

“We don’t know where it started, we don’t know how long it’s been around - it’s everywhere from Hong Kong to Israel to Spain, so why aren’t you banning travel from all of those countries, too?

“Only the African countries?”

The US, the UK and the whole of the EU among others have all barred arrivals from South Africa and its neighbours as details of the omicron variant emerge.

Yesterday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said he was “disappointed” by the travel bans imposed on the country, and called for leaders to lift them.

Watch the full clip here:

Simon Calder to answer your travel questions

08:44 , Lucy Thackray

As travel confusion builds once again around different border rules and quarantine requirements in destinations around the world, it’s a worrying time to be booking a holiday.

The Independent’s travel correspondent, Simon Calder, is following all of the changes amid the new variant and surging cases this winter, and is hosting a Zoom event this Wednesday, 1 December.

In the one-hour, evening event, Simon will look at the key issues for travellers as we move into 2022, and answer your burning holiday questions.

Sign up to attend here:

Travel expert Simon Calder to answer your questions at exclusive live event

City breaks in the Netherlands hit by new curfew

08:25 , Lucy Thackray

The Netherlands announced harsher local restrictions on Friday, amid a surge in Covid cases this autumn.

While the country has stopped short of imposing a full lockdown, a substantial new curfew - plus government advice to “stay at home as much as possible” is likely to decimate winter breaks and holidays in the country, which is especially popular for atmospheric city breaks in hotspots such as Amsterdam.

So what does this mean for travellers to the Netherlands?

Read the full story here:

Netherlands travel rules: what are the restrictions for tourists?

Good morning

08:22 , Lucy Thackray

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be posting all the latest travel updates throughout the day.

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