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Coronavirus

Travellers holidaying in the run up to Christmas warned to be PCR aware

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GoCompare Travel Insurance is warning those going for a winter break to keep abreast of the daily changes to travel restrictions and requirements so they don’t jeopardise their Christmas plans.

With the emergence of the omicron Covid 19 variant, the UK government has announced new travel restrictions, added new countries to the red list, as well as stipulating that fully vaccinated travellers now have to self-isolate while waiting for their day two PCR test.

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Those who are unvaccinated also have to comply with the by day two PCR test, as well as another PCR test on day eight – and self-isolate for 10 days. Tests cannot be NHS tests – they have to be private ones.

This means that those who are going on week or a fortnight’s break in the coming weeks, might find themselves having to self-isolate over Christmas – if they don’t plan ahead and don’t get the results back in time.

GoCompare travel insurance is reminding travellers that they don’t have to have that test on day two, but they have to test by the end of day two after returning from their holiday. They can in fact test on day zero, which is the day they return from their trip – with some private PCR providers turning results around as quickly as four hours.

But GoCompare travel is also warning holiday makers to keep a close eye on the news, as there is growing pressure on the UK government to make travellers self-isolate until they get a negative PCR test on day eight after returning from a trip. 

Richard Jones, from GoCompare Travel Insurance, said: “Now more than ever, anyone that is travelling in the coming weeks needs to keep a close eye on what is required before heading to the airport or port, as well as any changing requirements for re-entry into the UK.

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“Other countries around Europe are also changing their pre-entry travel requirement, with some such as Switzerland now insisting on 10 days of quarantine on arrival – which will affect ski holidays. While those looking for a bit of winter sun in Spain, might find themselves stranded at the airport if they aren’t fully jabbed, as Spain has banned all non-vaccinated arrivals.”

Richard explained: “These restrictions are changing by the day and the onus is on the holidaymaker to ensure that the forms are filled in, the tests are booked and that they have the proof to travel.

“If you are arriving home close to Christmas, book your PCR test now to ensure you get the results back in time – there is a list of approved private providers https://www.gov.uk/find-travel-test-provider – and ensure that you keep a close eye on the news just in case any of the test requirements change for the UK, as well as those to the country you are travelling to.”

Holidaymakers who booked with a package holiday company are afforded some extra protection as some companies are offering flexible changes to bookings, a refund guarantee, as well as extra protection if your destination moves onto the red list.

When it comes to travel insurance, Richard added: “Now more than ever, checking the terms and conditions of your travel insurance is crucial – with new lockdowns and travel restrictions being announced daily and the potential for new countries to be added to the red list, holidaymakers should ensure they are covered for all eventualities.

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“The majority of travel insurance providers cover you for repatriation and medical expenses and if you fall ill with Covid 19, but coronavirus cover does vary between insurers – with some companies now providing enhanced Covid cover so it’s important that you check the cover you have and the cover you think you need. More information about this can be found here: https://www.gocompare.com/travel-insurance/guide/coronavirus/.”        

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Coronavirus

First Minister announces plan to ease alert level two protections

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A plan to return Wales to alert level zero measures will today be set out by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The move comes as the latest public health data suggests cases of coronavirus have started to fall back from their very high levels. More than two-thirds of people aged 12 and over have received a booster or third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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The full move to alert level zero will be dependent on the public health situation continuing to improve.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I want to thank everyone for following the rules we have had in place since Boxing Day to help keep Wales safe while the fast-moving omicron variant has surged through our communities.

“I also want to thank everyone involved in our vaccination programme for the enormous efforts to give almost a third of the population a booster since the start of December – this has been vital in increasing our protection against omicron.

“The actions we have taken together have helped us to weather the omicron storm. The latest data suggests some positive signs that the peak may have passed.

“We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level two restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures.

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“But the pandemic is not over. We will closely monitor the public health situation – this is a fast-moving and volatile variant, which could change suddenly. I urge everyone to continue to follow the rules and have your vaccines to keep Wales safe.”

If conditions allow, the alert level two restrictions will be removed in a phased approach.

From tomorrow, the number of people who can be present at outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities. This means there will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities.

  • Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events
  • Outdoor hospitality would be able to operate without additional reasonable measures.
  • The Covid Pass will be required for entry to larger outdoor events.

If the downward trend continues, from Friday 28 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all indoor activities.

  • Nightclubs will be able to re-open.
  • Working from home would remain important but it would no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
  • The Covid Pass will be required for entry to nightclubs, events, cinemas, concert halls and theatres.
  • The rule of 6, table service and 2m physical distancing no longer required in hospitality.

The self-isolation rules for all those who test positive for Covid and the face covering rules for most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January.

The three-weekly cycle would be re-introduced from 10 February, when the Welsh Government will review all remaining measures at alert level zero.

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Coronavirus

First Minister to keep current COVID measures in place following latest review

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed alert level 2 measures will stay in place in Wales following the outcome of the latest regulations review.

The Welsh Government say this is due to cases of coronavirus rising sharply to their highest ever levels as the omicron wave has surged across Wales in the post-Christmas period. The latest figures show there are more than 2,200 cases per 100,000 people in Wales.

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First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The omicron wave means we are all facing a difficult month ahead of us. We are already seeing extremely high case rates in communities and we must be prepared for cases to rise even higher, just as they have elsewhere in the UK.

“This variant may not be as severe as we had initially feared but the speed at which it is travelling and its infectiousness continue to be cause for concern.

“That makes it vital that we all take action to keep each other safe. The things which have helped to protect us all throughout the pandemic will continue to protect us now.

“This includes getting vaccinated and making your booster a priority, limiting the number of people you meet who you don’t live with, and taking a lateral flow test before going out and mixing with others.

“Together, we will keep each other safe and we will keep Wales safe.”

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The rules say that at alert level 2 people must wear a face covering (unless there is a reasonable excuse not to wear one) in all indoor public places, including when not seated in a pub, café or restaurant.

People can meet no more than five other people at a café, restaurant, pub or other public premises (unless with their household of a larger number). This applies to both outdoor and indoor areas of the premises.

The rules say you should not take part in an organised event indoors of more than 30 people or outdoors for more than 50 people. All organised events must be organised by a responsible body and have a risk assessment.

There is also the instruction for people to continue to work from home if they can.

If you test positive for COVID-19 people should self-isolate for seven days, taking a lateral flow test on day six and day seven. If either test is positive they should remain in isolation until two negative lateral flow tests or after day 10, whichever is sooner.

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Strengthened guidance has also been issued asking people to limit the number of people they meet who they don’t live with, to “flow before you go” by taking a lateral flow test before going out, meeting people outdoors wherever possible and making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated.

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Coronavirus

COVID testing changes announced for Welsh international travellers

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Welsh Health Secretary announces ‘reluctant’ relaxation of testing for international travellers, to bring Wales in-line with recently announced changes in England

Eluned Morgan MS warned against non-essential international travel, siting the continued spread of the Omicron variant, but said that she had reluctantly agreed to remove the requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s to take a pre departure test (PDT) and a day 2 PCR test when arriving in the UK, in-line with decisions being taken elsewhere in the UK.

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All fully vaccinated travellers will need to take an LFD test at day 2 and, if positive, a follow-up PCR test to enable genomic sequencing to be carried out. The requirement to self-isolate until a negative test has been received has also been removed.  

The requirements for non-vaccinated travellers remain unchanged. 

These changes will begin to come into force from 4am on Friday 7 January. Lateral flow tests will be accepted as post-arrival tests from 4am on Sunday 9 January.

In a statement, Ms Morgan hit back at the growing gap between the UK and Welsh Government approaches to travel, saying: “We are concerned at the speed at which the UK Government is re-opening international travel, given on-going concerns of importing new variants and adding additional pressure to our health services.  

“Day 2 PCR testing acts as something of a surveillance system for international travel – if we had retained the requirement for a day 2 PCR test, we may have been alerted to the presence and introduction of omicron earlier. 

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“Given the UK Government’s decision to remove PCR testing, it is vital we work across the four nations to ensure a system of bio-surveillance is maintained to provide a way of guarding against the importation of future variants.” 

Ms Morgan also announced additions to the list of countries and territories with recognised vaccination programmes to also include: Bhutan, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Fiji, Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, North of Cyprus, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, The Gambia and Uzbekistan.

These changes will come into force at 4am on Monday 10 January.

Ms Morgan added: “While our public health system is working very hard to minimise the spread of cases already in Wales, it is imperative that we do everything we can to avoid undermining these efforts by importing new cases of coronavirus infections via international travel.

“We continue to encourage everyone in Wales to get vaccinated including having a booster vaccine, which is vital in increasing protection against the omicron variant.”

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