Published by BBC NEWS - 24th January 2022

Women at airport

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People arriving in England from abroad will no longer have to take Covid tests if they have been fully vaccinated, the prime minister has confirmed.

Boris Johnson said the further relaxation of the travel rules was designed to show that the country was open to travellers and business.

He did not confirm when the rules would go but the transport secretary is set to make a statement later on Monday.

Vaccinated travellers currently need to do a test within two days of arriving.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have previously followed England’s lead, but any changes are for them to decide.

Mr Johnson said although people had to be “cautious”, “you can see the figures are starting to get better”.

“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,” he added.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons outlining the rule changes.

The move will be welcomed by the travel and tourism industry, one of the sectors most badly affected by coronavirus lockdown measures.

‘Landmark day’

Research published last week by trade body Airlines UK and Manchester Airports Group said there was scientific evidence for making testing rules a “thing of the past” for fully-vaccinated travellers.

Commenting on the changes, Airlines UK’s chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc.”

He added: “With the all-important half-term week approaching, passengers should now get booking.”

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet said the airline would “now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer”.

Easyjet plane

Image source, Getty Images

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.”

Mr Lundgren said the airline planned to return to “near 2019 levels” of flying this summer.

Virgin Atlantic said: “The removal of all testing for vaccinated passengers is the final step in moving towards frictionless air travel, allowing passengers to reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues.

“It restores customer confidence and demand will be boosted in a critical booking window for the travel industry.”

At the weekend, one of the big testing firms said Covid tests for travellers arriving in the UK should be scrapped. Simon Worrell, global medical director of Collinson – which also runs airport lounges – said: “As soon as we can drop it, we will be delighted.”

And earlier this month, the boss of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, said the aviation industry will only fully recover when all restrictions are lifted.

Currently, fully vaccinated passengers, who have had two doses, and under-18s no longer need a pre-departure test two days before travelling to the UK.

However, within 48 hours of arrival, everyone aged five and over – or 11 and over in Scotland – must take a lateral flow test (LFT), or a more expensive PCR test.

If they take an LFT and it is positive, they must self-isolate and take an NHS PCR test to confirm the result.

Vaccinated travellers also have to fill in and submit an online passenger locator form no more than 48 hours before arriving, even if they are just passing through the UK.

Earlier in January, the government scrapped the need for fully vaccinated travellers coming to England to take a Covid test before they travel.

Arrivals who are not fully vaccinated must take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, which are more expensive than the lateral flow version.

They must also self-isolate for 10 days.

Mr Worrell said: “Airport testing was only ever supposed to be a band-aid, a temporary solution to get trade and tourism staggering whilst we build up immunity and we are able to fight the virus by ourselves. We are at that point now.

“The link between getting infected and hospitalisation has been broken. We are in a fantastic place – the envy of the world, I think.”

Mr Johnson said last Wednesday the government was reviewing testing arrangements for travel.

However, virologists have expressed caution. Dr Stephen Griffin, from the University of Leeds, told the BBC last week: “You have a moral responsibility to monitor and to know if you’re infectious. It is a good idea to test.”

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