12.These draft Regulations propose to extend from 31 December 2021 until 30 June 2022 the waiver from the requirement for pre-arrival safety and security entry summary (ENS) declarations for goods moved into Great Britain (GB) from territories that did not require such a declaration before EU Exit, such as the EU, Norway and Switzerland. The waiver was previously extended from 30 June to 31 December 2021. HM Revenue and Customs says that the further extension is needed in response to global supply chain issues and continuing pressures arising from the pandemic, which has impacted industry’s readiness for the introduction of full customs controls, and that it is in line with the delayed introduction of certain border controls on EU imports as announced by the Government in September 2021.
13.Amongst other changes, this instrument extends by 12 months the period during which the UK will accept EU requirements and conformity assessment markings until 31 December 2022 for products placed on the market in Great Britain. The instrument also extends by 12 months existing easements which allow businesses to affix the new UK conformity assessment marking (UKCA) using a label or accompanying document until 31 December 2023. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says that the changes will ensure that businesses have sufficient time to comply with new UKCA requirements, at a time when they are facing “unexpected challenges” due to the pandemic. Asked about the current level of preparedness, the Department told us that:
“Engagement with industry suggests readiness for UKCA implementation is low across all sectors covered by this SI. Businesses have cited lengthy lead-in times needed to prepare for the new regime and a lack of business capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as reasons for unpreparedness across all sectors. This was supported by the June 2021 ONS Business Insights and Impact on the UK economy survey results, which showed that around 31% of all businesses requiring CE/UKCA marking were unaware of UKCA marking requirements and only 42% were already using UKCA or are planning to do so by 1 Jan 2022. [ … ]
In terms of product testing capacity, the issue is particularly acute in relation to pyrotechnic articles (where the first Approved Body was appointed in October 2021); testing for noise levels for equipment used outdoors (where there are only 3 UK Approved Bodies), and lifts (where there are just 4 UK Approved Bodies) [ … ]. Evidence suggests that there is a high risk for other sectors covered by this SI too, including, but not limited to, personal protective equipment (PPE).”
14.These Regulations further amend the International Travel Regulations to expand the “eligible traveller” category to recognise vaccinations certified by a larger number of countries and territories (including three individual USA States). They update the definition of an “authorised vaccine” to include COVID-19 vaccinations authorised under the World Health Organisation Emergency Use List: Sinopharm Beijing, Sinovac and Covaxin. Those under 18 who may or may not have been vaccinated will be treated as eligible travellers if they have not been in a Category 3 country listed in Schedule 3 (“the Red List”) in the previous 10 days. The instrument also simplifies the exemptions from the requirement to self-isolate that applies to certain transport and border workers by removing the criterion about their country of ordinary residency, and adds the “Future Tech Forum” and two sporting events to the list of events conveying a degree of exception from normal precautions.
15.In the light of the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, stringent measures are being re-imposed on travellers from certain countries. SI 2021/1323 amends the International Travel Regulations to add six countries to the list of the Red List. They are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
16.The Regulations also prohibited aircraft from those countries landing in England until 28 November 2021, thereafter they may only land at the designated Red List terminals at Heathrow and Birmingham airports. The instrument also included transitional provisions that allowed anyone who arrived from a Red List country between noon on Friday 26 November and 4am on Sunday 28 November to self-isolate at home, but also required the rest of their household to self-isolate. After that date, UK citizens returning from those countries will be required to isolate in pre-booked supervised accommodation for 10 days and follow an enhanced testing regime.
17.SI 2021/1331 adds four more countries to the Red List restrictions: Angola, Malawi. Mozambique and Zambia. It also prohibits direct flights from those countries landing in England unless at the designated Red List airports.
18.Previously those defined as “eligible travellers” (fully vaccinated passengers who have not been to a Red List country) were subject to simplified testing requirements, for example they were only required to take a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test on or before Day 2 of their arrival in England. These Regulations amend the International Travel Regulations to remove those options and from 30 November everyone arriving in England must take a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test and remain in isolation until they receive the result. Unlike an LFD test, a PCR test allows laboratories to detect S gene target failure, a proxy for potential Omicron cases, and therefore quickly find and respond to the variant of concern.
19.Where the PCR test is negative, the traveller can leave isolation but all international arrivals who test positive following a Day 2 test are required to provide the contact details of their household members, when contacted by NHS Test and Trace, and new offences are introduced for non-compliance. Private providers of tests are also required to notify the travellers and the UK Health Security Agency if the traveller is suspected of having the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.
20.This made affirmative instrument underpins the enforcement capability for the new travel testing regime in SI 2021/1339 (see below) by making a specific provision that where NHS Test and Trace notify individuals that they are a close contact of a case suspected or confirmed as having the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant of COVID-19 they will be legally required to self-isolate regardless of age or vaccination status. The affected individuals will not be able to benefit from any exemptions to the self-isolation regime which may apply to other variants, for example the Daily Contact Testing Scheme. In other respects, the length and requirements of the self-isolation period remain the same as for non-Omicron contacts. The objective is to delay transmission while further information on this new variant of concern is gathered and analysed.
21.As a precaution, while the new coronavirus variant of concern, Omicron, is being investigated, these Regulations make it a legal requirement for members of the public to wear face coverings in specified indoor places. Subject to the usual exemptions, anyone in England in shops, shopping centres, banks, post offices, transports hubs, or using public transport services must wear a mask. This includes people travelling on buses, trains, private hire vehicles, taxis, the London Underground, trams, aircraft and water taxis. Anyone who fails to comply without a “reasonable excuse” is liable to a fixed penalty of £200, doubling with each subsequent offence to a maximum of £6,400. Face coverings are not required in other places, including hospitality settings. The House may wish to ask the Minister to explain why some places were chosen and not others, and, because the list is complex, how members of the public will be able to understand where and when a mask must be worn.
22.These Regulations are due to expire at the end of 20 December 2021 which falls into the period of parliamentary recess: the House may wish to ask the Minister to ensure that any decision to extend these Regulations is announced before the House rises.
6 Customs Safety and Security Procedures (EU Exit) Regulations 2021 ().
7 Border Controls, , 14 September 2021.
8 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 ().