The British government will scrap the pre-departure test for travellers returning to England and will lift the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative test, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
Addressing the House of Commons on Jan. 5, Johnson said the pre-departure test will no longer be needed in England from 4 a.m. on Jan. 7.
The government will also be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until a negative PCR test result is received, returning to the previous system where those arriving in England will need to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two, and if positive, a further PCR test.
Johnson said the government has taken a “balanced approach,” which means “where specific measures are no longer serving their purpose, they will be dropped.”
He said travel restrictions were “rightly introduced” when the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, was first identified, though he acknowledged that the measure “discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expenses.”
He said the measure can now be removed as “Omicron is so prevalent these measures have a limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing to pose significant cost to our travel industry.”
Commenting on Twitter, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change in measures will support “the safe reopening of international travel” and “a full review of travel measures” will take place by the end of January.
The relaxation of travel restrictions, which will apply to passengers who are fully vaccinated or are under the age of 18, were welcomed by business groups.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a “massive boost” for the sector at a “critical” time of the year.
“Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season,” he said.
EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren also welcomed the move, but said the government needed to go further.
“The government must now urgently take the final step towards restriction-free travel and remove the last remaining unnecessary test for vaccinated travellers so flying does not become the preserve of the rich,” he said.
A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said, “Although this is welcome news, there is still a long way back for aviation which remains the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, supporting millions of jobs in all four nations.”
PA Media contributed to this report.