Labour has led calls for pre-travel tests to return to battle the spread of the Omicron variant
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Passengers could be asked to take pre-departure Covid tests before Christmas amid growing pressure on ministers to tighten up travel rules.
Downing Street did not rule out bringing back pre-travel tests before the end of the year as the Government monitors the spread of the new Omicron variant.
Since 4am on Tuesday, all internationals arrivals are required to take a PCR test and isolate until they get their result.
But a leaked paper from the Government’s SAGE advisors said pre-departure tests would be “valuable”, adding that the current plan would “identify significantly fewer cases” than if people were asked to take tests on day 5 or 8.
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Asked if pre-departure tests were on the agenda, Science Minister George Freeman told the Today programme: “We’re looking at all the data and Omicron is, we’re literally live work every day on looking at the data, both internationally and domestically.”
He added: “We are watching the data very closely and we will update the guidance as required”.
Asked to rule out bringing in pre-departure tests before Christmas, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think what I can say is at the moment we have this three week review point… we believe restrictions we’ve put in place … strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods.
“There are no plans to introduce pre-departure tests, we think the Day 2 test is the right way.”
The spokesman added: “It’s not a restriction we’re planning to introduce based on what we currently know.”
But Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It is totally unacceptable that ministers are failing to take action at the border when even their own advisors are telling them to introduce pre-departure tests.
“It cannot be right that people can travel to an airport, board a busy flight, queue at busy departure gates, and travel on trains and buses in the UK, all without having taken a test.
“The government must not repeat the mistakes it made earlier in the pandemic by being too slow to take action to prevent further cases of the Omicron variant entering the UK.”
The Scottish and Welsh Governments have issued a joint call for a return to tests on day 8 after people arrive back in the UK.