Pre-departure testing into England scrapped from Friday 7th January (back to lateral flow only within 48 hours of arrival)

The government has confirmed the removal of its pre-departure test requirements for passengers travelling into England.

PCR tests and self-isolation on arrival has also been scrapped, with the government reverting to its previous requirement of a lateral flow test to be taken within 48 hours of arrival and, if positive, a PCR test to check for variants.

The changes to international travel rules will come into effect from 4am on Friday, January 7.

Announcing the changes in the House of Commons, prime minister Boris Johnson said: “When the Omicron variant was first identified we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country. But now Omicron is so prevalent these measure are having a limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing pose significant costs to our travel industry.”

He added: “All these measures are a balanced and proportionate ways of ensuring we can live with Covid without letting our guard down. And we can only do this because of the biggest and fastest booster campaign in Europe.”

Pre-departure tests for travel into the UK were reintroduced in early December in a bid to halt the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. That announcement came a week after the prime minister confirmed the reintroduction of PCR tests.

At the time, the government also placed a number of African countries on its international travel red list, but they were all removed on December 14 when Omicron had reached community transmission in the UK.

PCR tests had been in place for arrivals since international travel resumed after Covid  up to October 24 2021, when the restriction was relaxed for fully-jabbed passengers and most under 18s arriving in England from countries not on the red travel list before their reintroduction in December.

The government also confirmed today that its Plan B measures to combat Covid-19 this winter would remain in place. Those measures include working from home if possible.

Henry Smith MP, chair of the all party parliamentary group for the future of aviation,  said: “The reduction in international travel Covid testing restrictions is a very welcome step forward and removes an unnecessary barrier to travel – this must mark a concerted start of the recovery of our aviation, travel and tourism industries along with the millions of UK jobs they support.

“It is now essential that the government work with industry to agree and implement a long-term plan which can help these vital industries begin their road to recovery.  The economic impact of international travel restrictions has been significant and ensuring we have a thriving aviation and travel sector again will be vital to our national economic recovery and the government must put the sector specific support in place to allow this to begin without further delay.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership said the relaxation of travel restrictions is “of course a positive for the travel industry” and will “boost confidence at what is traditionally the busiest booking period of the year”.

She said: “Our members are currently trading on average at about 50% of 2019 levels and are beginning to see that pent-up demand come through following 20 months of the toughest of trading conditions.

“In order to recover from the decimating impact the pandemic has had on the travel industry and people we must start to see a consistent approach from government in terms of the future relaxation of rules given our highly-vaccinated population.”

Lo Bue-Said warned: “Travel will remain ever complex this year, but if the consumer can rely on less confusing government intervention, a continuation of a more flexible approach from travel suppliers, and the expertise of a human travel agent to help guide them through the booking process from take-off to landing, I am hopeful we will see the industry start to finally bounce back.”

Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten, welcomed the news and said the restrictions have “caused unnecessary damage to the whole travel sector.”

He said: “It is imperative that the government backs-up these measures with a robust plan for future variants that does not mean closing our borders and strangling our sector once more.”

Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer, American Express Global Business Travel, said the changes were “the right decision and a positive step forward”, adding: “We’re pleased the government has kept to its word.”

He said: “Travel restrictions have come at a huge cost to the business travel sector, which is the engine room of our economy, contributing £220 billion a year to UK GDP pre-pandemic.

“Today’s announcement will help our industry recover, empower UK businesses to reach new markets and catalyse growth.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee added: “Removing all the temporary travel restrictions is a welcome recognition that they no longer serve a purpose, now omicron is well-established in the UK.

“The UK government’s decision follows the same approach some other European countries have taken in recent days, such as the Republic of Ireland. The devolved governments should now follow suit, enabling a continued four-nation approach to travel in the UK.

Dee added: “Despite the removal of the temporary measures, airports continue to face a difficult period. There continue to be countries who have imposed restrictions on UK arrivals and consumer confidence has been knocked during the crucial Christmas booking period.

“The UK and devolved governments should set out how they will support aviation towards a sustainable recovery to ensure the UK has the connectivity and the airports necessary for our economic recovery.”

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