Omicron variant sparks tightening of travel restrictions in U.K.

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A patient receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Swaminarayan School vaccination centre, in London, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Britain says it will offer all adults a booster dose of vaccine within two months to bolster the nation's immunity as the new omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads. New measures to combat variant came into force in England on Tuesday, with face coverings again compulsory in shops and on public transport. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

A patient receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Swaminarayan School vaccination centre, in London, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Britain says it will offer all adults a booster dose of vaccine within two months to bolster the nation’s immunity as the new omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads. New measures to combat variant came into force in England on Tuesday, with face coverings again compulsory in shops and on public transport. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

Britain’s government tightened travel restrictions Saturday amid concerns about the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, saying all travelers arriving in England will need to take a COVID-19 test before they board their flight.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new rules will apply from 4 a.m. London time Tuesday.

“In light of the most recent data, we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the omicron variant,” he said in a tweet.

Javid also added Nigeria to the U.K.’s travel “red list,” which means that arrivals from there will be banned except for U.K. and Irish residents, and those travellers must isolate in designated quarantine facilities. He said there was a “significant number” of omicron cases linked to travel with Nigeria, with 27 cases recorded in England.

Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the new measures will be a “major deterrent” to travel, just as airports and the travel industry were hoping for a small uplift over the festive season.

“This is a devastating blow for aviation and tourism,” she said

Authorities recorded another 42,848 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.K. as of Saturday, with 127 more deaths. With over 145,000 COVID-19 deaths in the pandemic, Britain has the second-highest virus death toll in Europe after Russia.

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