Heightened travel testing rules under fire from aviation industry

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New testing rules for travellers returning to the UK have been criticised by industry chiefs.

The Government has introduced pre-departure coronavirus tests for all international arrivals, over the age of 12, to the UK, starting from 4am on Tuesday, December 7.

The move is in response to the new Omicron variant of coronavirus which was first detected in South Africa and is spreading throughout the world.

Tests must be taken a maximum of 48 hours before departure time.

There are fears that protection levels of coronavirus vaccines might not be as efficient against the new strain compared with the Delta variant.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the measure is due to an “increasing number of cases linked to travel”.

Charlie Cornish, CEO of Manchester Airport Group, said: “We understand the need to respond quickly to the emergence of new variants where there is a substantial threat to public health.

“But, yet again, the Government has chosen not to share data and evidence to support its actions.

“Uncertainty, and a lack of transparency on decision making is destroying consumer confidence in travel and will hold back the recovery of one of the UK’s most important industries.”

He added: “There continues to be no recognition from the Government or the opposition of the impact these restrictions will have on our sector, and the urgent need for support while we continue to be prevented from operating normally.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive, Karen Dee, said: “This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism.

“Pre-departure tests acts as a major deterrent to travel and most of the limited remaining demand following the reintroduction of self-isolation will now fall away, just as airports were hoping for a small uplift over the Christmas holiday.

“Travel and aviation are the only sectors hit with any operating restrictions in response to the Omicron variant.

“The UK and devolved governments should have done the right thing and, alongside the restrictions, announced support for our businesses and our staff to get through another period of shutdown.”

She added: “Hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on air travel – Government must recognise this and provide the support needed to safeguard this critical infrastructure upon which our economic recovery from the pandemic depends.”