Travelers were released from quarantine hotels after the government removed the redlist of countries where Omicron was at higher risk.
The PA news agency reported that people in hotels were told they could leave as of 4 p.m. yesterday, around 12 hours after the requirement to self-isolate in a hotel was lifted, although it was reported that some travelers had left their accommodation before this date.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said released travelers “will get a refund for the part of the space they have booked and have not used”.
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People who test positive, or those who are not fully vaccinated and are a contact with someone who tested positive, should remain in quarantine.
Concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus led 11 African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia to be placed on the red list.
This has sparked objections from travel companies and African countries.
People arriving in the UK from these locations were required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £ 2,285 for solo travelers.
But Mr Javid announced on Tuesday that the list would be removed because the prevalence of the strain in the UK meant it was “now less effective in slowing Omicron’s foray from overseas”.
Speaking to a Commons committee, Jonathan Mogford, who is responsible for the quarantine service managed at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), suggested that around 250 of those in quarantine had tested positive.
UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said travel restrictions had “a time and place” to protect public health.
She told MPs the Red List was deployed “as a delaying tactic”, giving the UK “time to prepare” for the Omicron variant.
But now that the strain’s growth rate in the UK is “important” it is “really important” that the country-specific restrictions be lifted, Dr Harries said.
Travelers entering the UK should always take a pre-departure test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.
Testing requirements “remain important to help prevent seeding of additional Omicron in the UK,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said.
The scale of the Omicron outbreak in the UK has now prompted France to put the UK on its own version of the red list. French nationals and their spouses and children will be exempt, but anyone else wishing to visit France this month must have a “compelling reason” to travel back and forth between the two countries.
The latest French government statement read: “Faced with the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK, the government has chosen to restore the compelling reasons for traveling to and from the UK, and to strengthen the requirement of tests on departure and arrival.
“In the British government’s own words, the UK will face a ‘tidal wave’ linked to the Omicron variant in the coming days.”
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