Covid-19 testing for travellers arriving in England who are fully vaccinated will be axed from 11 February.
Eligible fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will “no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test” from 4am on that date, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs on Monday.
He also said passengers who are not fully vaccinated will no longer need to do a day eight test or self isolate, though they must still show proof of a negative test ahead of travel and take a PCR after arrival.
The move will be a major boost for travel firms and will save money for families who are planning a holiday abroad.
The changes come after major airline bosses wrote to the government demanding an end to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
In the letter, they asked that restriction-free travel was restored “at the very least” for those who are fully vaccinated.
The letter was signed by the heads of Ryanair, easyJet, Loganair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2, as well as the chief executives of holiday travel group Tui and trade body Airlines UK.
When will Covid travel tests be scrapped?
Making a travel update statement in the Commons, Mr Shapps said: “Today I can confirm to the House that our international travel regime will also now be liberalised as part our efforts to ensure that 2022 is the year in which restrictions on travel, on lockdowns and limits on people’s lives are firmly placed in the past.
“From 4am on February 11, and in time for the half-term break, eligible fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test.
“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 also said: “For now, we’ll maintain our current definition of fully vaccinated for the purposes of inbound travel to the UK, and that means two doses of an approved vaccination or one dose of a Janssen vaccine.
“We’ll go further, the measures for those arriving in the UK who do not qualify as fully vaccinated have not changed since last March, so the time has come to review that position too.
“Today, I can announce that passengers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated will no longer be required to do a day eight test after arrival, or indeed 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.
“This is a proportionate system that moves us a step closer to normality while maintaining vital public health protections.”
Boris Johnson had announced the upcoming travel changes on a visit to Milton Keynes Hospital today, saying: “What we’re doing on travel, to show that this country is open for business, open for travellers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated.”
The scrapping of arrival tests will apply in England only, but the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recently implemented Westminster’s changes to international travel rules.
As such, it is likely that similar changes will be made across the rest of the UK.
What else was announced?
Mr Shapps confirmed that 12 to 15-year-olds in England will be able to prove their vaccination status via the digital NHS pass for international outbound travel.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Shapps said: “Under-18s will continue to be treated as eligible fully-vaccinated passengers, which means they will not face any tests at the UK border.
“Today, I am pleased to confirm that from February 3, 12 to 15-year-olds in England will be able to prove their vaccination status via the digital NHS pass for international outbound travel.”
Mr Shapps also told MPs the UK is also set to recognise vaccine certificates from 16 further nations.
He said reconnecting to key markets will not only “boost” the UK economy but also help the aviation industry to “take back to the skies”.
The Transport Secretary added: “I can also confirm that from 4am on February 11, we’ll recognise at the UK border vaccines certificates from 16 further nations.
“That will include countries like China and Mexico, bringing the vaccine recognition total to over 180 countries and territories worldwide.”
What has been said about the changes?
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren welcomed the update, saying “millions of our customers” will be “delighted to see the return of restriction-free travel in the UK”.
He said: “We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past.
“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.”
Mr Lundgren added that the airline intends to return to “near-2019 levels of flying this summer”.
What are the current testing rules?
Under current rules, fully vaccinated travellers must pre-book and take a post-arrival test from a private supplier.
This can be a lateral flow test, which typically costs around £19.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated must take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, which are more expensive than lateral flows, and self-isolate for 10 days.
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