NEWS: COVID-19 Testing Rules Are CHANGING in the United Kingdom

To ensure we are equipping our readers with all the information they need, we will continue to report on all travel, safety, and COVID-related news that could impact a Disney Parks visit.

COVID-19 continues to impact theme parks, travel plans, and more around the world.

COVID-19 Health and Safety Sign

Just this week, we saw that Hong Kong Disneyland will be closing temporarily due to COVID-19 concerns. We also saw some record daily numbers hit in terms of COVID-19 cases in the United States. The CDC has also updated certain recommendations regarding isolation and quarantine, and we’ve seen updates on COVID-19 boosters. Now we’ve gotten an update regarding COVID-19 testing in another part of the world.

According to The Orange County Register, health authorities in the United Kingdom have changed COVID-19 testing requirements. These changes are “designed to cut isolation times” and ease staffing shortages.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced to the House of Commons that COVID-19 tests previously required prior to departure for people traveling to England will no longer be required. Bloomberg notes that this change is specifically for vaccinated travelers.

The Orange County Register shares that Johnson indicated that the Omicron COVID-19 variant is so prevalent already in the U.K. that travel restrictions once meant to contain the spread of the virus are now essentially meaningless. Bloomberg reports that this change will start on Friday.

COVID-19 Testing ©Orlando International Airport

The BBC also notes that starting on Sunday, those who arrive in England won’t need to take a PCR test and isolate while they wait for the result. Instead, they can take one lateral flow test after arrival and don’t need to isolate while waiting for the result.

In terms of other changes, the Orange County Register shares that the U.K. Health Security Agency has indicated that starting on January 11th, individuals in England who test positive for COVID-19 using a lateral flow test won’t be required to confirm that positive result with a PCR test, so long as they are asymptomatic.

This will reduce the time that these individuals need to self-isolate as these individuals will no longer need to wait for the result of a PCR test and then start another 7-day isolation period.

COVID-19 Vaccine Sign

These changes are quickly spreading through other areas. The Orange County Register notes that authorities in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland quickly followed, making similar changes. Scotland and Wales also plan to introduce these adjusted rules later this week.

John Edmunds, an epidemiologist and professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said that the move makes sense. According to Edmunds, “almost everyone who tests positive with a lateral flow test will be a true positive,” so there’s really no need to confirm this with a PCR test.

Disney World Health and Safety Signage from May of 2021

But, Edmunds notes that this can also cause some complications. The lack of PCR tests will mean that authorities will get less information about the spread of different variants (PCR swabs are the ones used for genotyping and sequencing to find out about the different mutations). The daily updates on confirmed COVID-19 cases (which again comes from PCR tests) will also “need more careful interpretation.”

Bloomberg shares that “the change to domestic testing rules means the government will effectively now be relying on people reporting their results from home tests to track the path of the pandemic.” There is a question of how many will continue to report their test results since they will no longer have to get the PCR test.

Health and safety signage in Disneyland, California

There have been quite a few staff shortages in the U.K. Some organizations have even declared “critical incidents” due to staff shortages. Some hospitals indicated that they’d pause select non-urgent surgeries due to the impact of COVID-19 and staffing shortages. In other places, there have been cuts to train services, and staffing shortages have caused garbage to pile up on some streets.

Some politicians and public health experts, however, had pushed for tighter restrictions on “business and personal interactions” due to the spread of Omicron. The BBC shares that England will be sticking to certain “Plan B measures” related to COVID-19, which include face mask requirements in most indoor settings, COVID-19 passports for large venues, and more.

As always, keep in mind that these rules are subject to change. We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates and we’ll let you know what we find.

Click here to see more about Omicron and Disney World.

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