It seems the UK Government is pushing ahead with reopening the country to visitors, as it prepares to remove the requirement for testing for eligible vaccinated travellers.
In the move it has taken, all testing measures for eligible fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be removed from 4 am on 11 February. The move was announced on the 24th of January, as the government seek to open borders.
The move kicks in just before the half-term school holidays in the UK – reducing costs for families who seek to escape (although they will have to meet any requirements of the country they are entering).
It is put down to both the vaccination programme carried out in the UK, along with the following booster rollout.
Requirements – Vaccinated Passengers
Eligible fully vaccinated travellers will only need to fill out the passenger locator form (PLF), which will be simplified, confirming their vaccination status, travel history and contact details, and people will have an extra day to fill it out before travelling.
Children aged 12-15 in England will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3 February for outbound travel, making it easier for children and families to travel to countries that require proof of vaccination or prior infection to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
It will also enable families to plan holidays for the February half term with greater confidence, as parents can be reassured they will quickly be able to evidence their child’s vaccination status or proof of prior infection for outbound travel and meet the requirements of different countries more easily.
For inward travel, all under-18s regardless of their individual vaccination status will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
Requirements – Unvaccinated/Unrecognised vaticination authority Passengers
For those arrivals that are not deemed to qualify as fully vaccinated, the UK will also scale back travel restrictions for unvaccinated arrivals. From 11 February, individuals who are not fully vaccinated will only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 after they arrive in the UK, as well as completing out the simplified PLF. More importantly, They will not need to self-isolate on arrival, and will only need to do so on receipt of a positive result.
From 16 further countries and territories at the border, including China and Mexico. This will bring the total list to over 180 countries and territories worldwide, and the full list of eligible countries and territories can be found on gov.uk.
The future of the Red List
While the red list will continue to remain in place as our first line of defence against future variants of concern arriving from abroad, the government is looking to replace the hotel quarantine policy with other contingency measures including home isolation and further details will be set out on this later in the spring.
For HM Government, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
We made the right calls at the right time and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout it’s paying off – allowing us to safely remove nearly all COVID-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
We already have one of the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of the changes today we now have a travel sector to match it.
This final step in our stable and safe full return to international travel is a major boost for UK tourism, setting Britain free ahead of the crucial half term and spring holiday season
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
We have entered a new chapter in our fight against COVID-19 and we’re taking a balanced approach as we learn to live with the virus.
Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, now is the right time to take this additional step towards opening up international travel once again.
Extending the NHS COVID Pass to children aged 12-15 in England will also make the outward journey easier for families and I am delighted we have taken this step in time for February half term.
For the Airline industry, Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK opened with:
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. It will offer further reassurance to those planning to travel, both overseas and into the UK, and demonstrates again that following the success of the vaccine programme, the UK can lead the world in our recovery from the pandemic.
With the all-important half-term week approaching, passengers should now get booking, and airlines look forward to using the connectivity they’re proud to facilitate to turbo-charge the economic recovery for all of the UK.
Charlie Cornish, Group CEO of MAG followed, saying:
This important announcement is excellent news for our sector’s recovery.
This change will be welcomed by the millions of vaccinated people who are desperate to travel and will now be able to do so – restriction-free – for the first time in more than a year.
With Britain reopened for business, we’re looking forward to helping people across the country get back to visiting exciting new places, finding fresh trading opportunities overseas, and travelling to see friends and loved ones again.
UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Sarah Treseder said:
We are delighted to see the government has eased restrictions, bringing travel back towards near normality for fully-vaccinated people. Millions of passengers enjoy travelling by sea each year and although it will take time for confidence to fully return to normal, this landmark decision will help the tourism and travel sector at a vitally important time for the industry.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO added:
“We welcome this news knowing that millions of our customers will also be delighted to see the return of restriction free travel in the UK. We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer.
“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.
“We commend the Government for removing all testing. easyJet plans to return to near 2019 levels of flying this summer and so we can’t wait to welcome our customers back onboard.”
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