The requirement for COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be scrapped next month, the UK government has announced.
Eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will “no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test” from 4 a.m. on Feb. 11, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the House of Commons on Monday.
“That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation, additional expense, all that fully vaccinated people will now have to do, when they travel to the UK, is to verify their status via a passenger locator form,” he said.
Under the new rules, passengers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated will no longer be required to do a day eight test after arrival, or to self-isolate.
“They will still need to fill out a passenger locator form, to demonstrate proof of a negative COVID test taken two days before they travel, and they must still take a post-arrival PCR test,” Shapps said.
Travel industry leaders have welcomed the announcement.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren said that “millions of our customers” will be “delighted to see the return of restriction-free travel in the UK.”
“We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past,” he said. “It is clear travel restrictions did not materially slow the spread of Omicron in the UK and so it is important that there are no more knee-jerk reactions to future variants.”
He added that the airline intends to return to “near-2019 levels of flying this summer.”
Airlines UK boss Tim Alderslade said: “This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc. Nearly two years since the initial COVID restrictions were introduced, today’s announcement brings international travel towards near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy.”
Abby Penlington, director at ferry trade association Discover Ferries, said the announcement will make travelling “easier, cheaper, and will be a further boost to consumer confidence.”
A new study released last week showed that travel restrictions have had almost no impact on the spread of COVID-19 variants in the UK.
Governments are not able to implement travel restrictions quickly enough for them to be effective in limiting the spread of new variants, said the report by Edge Health and Oxera, a specialist research consultancy that works with Britain’s National Health Service.
It takes several weeks before governments become aware of new variants, and even longer to assess if they are variants of concern, the study found. By the time a new variant has been discovered and assessed, it is too late for restrictions to make any difference, said the report commissioned by Airlines UK and Manchester Airports Group.
PA Media contributed to this report.