Covid cases are falling in the UK, and even famously strict New Zealand has fully reopened its borders after imposing stringent controls back in March 2020. However, a leading testing expert says the latest Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are the most contagious yet and remain a significant threat to our health and our foreign holiday plans this summer.
The leading testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, said, ‘Here in the UK, Covid cases and hospital admissions are finally falling. The latest Government figures for 29 July showed a drop of half a million compared to the previous week. Before we all start partying like it’s 2019 however, it’s important to keep in mind that 3.2 million Brits – and 1 in every 20 people in England – still have the virus.
‘While many cases of the latest Omicron variants cause less severe illness than earlier versions, it can still be a very serious virus. Covid may remain active in our bodies, in areas such as the gut, for extended periods of time. This could well be the cause of long Covid.
‘For this reason, at the beginning of June, London Medical Laboratory called for the Government to urgently consider vaccinating everyone over 50 this autumn. We are delighted it has now agreed to do this. However, the Government – whoever is in charge of it by then – must also ensure that the new top-up jab covers the latest Omicron variants, rather than using older vaccines that do little to halt the spread of the virus.
‘Covid is also on the decline in most countries around the world but it still remains a threat, so it’s best to take a test before flying. Some countries retain very strict Covid quarantine measures that will be enforced for anyone developing symptoms after arrival. Post-Brexit, travellers to Europe should also ensure they apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card or that their existing European Health Insurance Card is still valid, or they could face expensive medical treatment as well as a ruined holiday. Visitors to non-EU countries should ensure their travel insurance gives good medical cover.
‘Though many countries have dropped all Covid entry regulations, some of our favourite holiday destinations have kept strict rules that tourists need to know before travelling. Here are some popular destinations with rigorous entry requirements:
Spain: If traveling to Spain, Brits must show valid proof they are fully vaccinated or produce a negative Covid-19 test: either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure.
USA: Fully vaccinated travellers are recommended to take a viral test within 3 to 5 days of arrival. Most non-vaccinated travellers won’t be allowed entry into the USA. If someone is not fully vaccinated, they may be allowed to fly to the United States under one of its very limited number of exceptions. However, they will be required to get tested for current infection 3-5 days after arrival, unless they have documentation of having recovered from Covid in the past 90 days or choose to self-quarantine for a full 5 days.
Holland: Fully-jabbed UK nationals who can provide proof of vaccination, which includes the UK Covid Pass, are allowed to enter the Netherlands. Unvaccinated adults are only allowed to enter if they meet the Dutch government’s strict exemptions. For example, UK residents are permitted to enter if they are married to an EU national or attending the funeral of a close family member.
New Zealand: We may be celebrating the final relaxation of restrictions for holidaymakers to New Zealand, famously some of the strictest in the world, but they have not completely vanished. Adults must be fully vaccinated to enter the country. Eligible travellers entering New Zealand will be given a pack of rapid antigen tests (RATs) at the airport. Visitors must take a RAT the day they arrive and on day 5 or 6.
India: Unvaccinated visitors will need to upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report. The test must be taken within three days of travel. All visitors should also submit a self-declaration form on the online “Air Suvidha” portal before travel.
‘Clearly, both at home and abroad, Covid still possesses the power to disrupt our lives. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) research shows that antibody levels, though still relatively high, have been consistently falling since mid-April. This closely mirrors our own lab’s findings. If anyone is concerned about their own immune response to the jabs and how well they continue to produce antibodies, the new generation blood tests available from London Medical Laboratory are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out, either at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer this test across London and the southeast.