Covid passports for international travel to remain in place

Covid passports will remain on the NHS app for international travel despite the end of their use domestically in England, the prime minister has confirmed.

In an update to the House of Commons, Boris Johnson removed all domestic restrictions as part of the government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan.

The legal requirement for people who test positive for coronavirus to self-isolate will be removed from Thursday and free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will end in England from April 1.

Vaccinated contacts of positive cases will no longer be asked to test for seven days and there will no longer be a legal requirement for close contacts who are not vaccinated to self-isolate. Contact tracing will also come to an end.

However, those who test positive for the virus will still be encouraged to follow the guidance to stay at home.

Johnson said: “We protect ourselves without losing our liberties and maintaining our contingent capabilities so we can respond rapidly to any new variant.

“While the pandemic is not over, we have now passed the peak of the Omicron wave.”

The prime minister made no mention of the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) during his statement, but later responded to a question to say he “understood the grievance over it” and to confirm it would be “reviewed by Easter”.

The question followed morning reports that transport secretary Grant Shapps is pushing to remove the form in time for the Easter holidays.

In a statement issued before Johnson’s speech, Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, warned that the industry must make clear it remains “seriously damaged”.

She said: “Any relaxation in restrictions that are currently prohibitive to travel are of course very welcome but let nobody be fooled into thinking the travel industry is suddenly fixed.

“The travel industry is seriously damaged, in debt and in many cases in trouble, struggling to survive.

“The travel industry was probably the only sector during the pandemic that had to keep its staff working managing rebookings and cancellations, despite no income and is now the only sector that still cannot trade fully.

“After two of the hardest years on record for the outbound travel industry it is a long way from being back to normal. Even with the UK dropping restrictions we cannot control what’s happening at the destination.

“There is still a labyrinth of restrictions and complexity to navigate through, in order to arrange travel, and a minefield of confusing regulations, depending on destination, regarding test requirements, quarantine and evidence of vaccination.

“Much of Asia, for example, is still operating a seven-day quarantine on arrival, regardless of vaccination or tests.

“Our job is to enable travel for everyone but yet we still can’t trade as normal.

“February half term, for example, is usually one of our peaks, with families ready to shake off the winter blues with a break skiing or in the sun. Despite the euphoria of restrictions easing, this year our members report bookings are 36% down on 2019.

“The travel industry cannot be swept under the carpet and forgotten. The outbound travel sector was the first industry to be affected and it is now the last to recover and therefore, continued government engagement with industry is paramount.

“We must use our influence to drive international harmonisation and in turn, enabling the world to travel once more, thus driving economic and social prosperity.”

The government also announced an additional booster vaccine will be offered to over-75s, residents in care homes for older adults and people aged over 12 who are immunosuppressed.

Johnson talked up the UK’s ability to test for variants and confirmed the ONS infection survey will continue in order to offer surveillance of the virus.

And he said the ability to ramp testing back up in the NHS and other settings would remain in case needed.

Source – travel weekly

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