COVID-19 tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England to be scrapped from 11 February
COVID tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England are being scrapped from 4am on 11 February, Grant Shapps has confirmed.
Making a statement on the coronavirus rule change in the Commons, the transport secretary said those who have had two doses of an approved vaccination or one dose of a Janssen/J+J vaccine will no longer need to take a pre-departure or post-arrival test.
The change will be introduced in time for the half-term break.
Travel testing rule change
Mr Shapps told MPs 2022 will be "the year in which restrictions on travel, on lockdowns and limits on people's lives are firmly placed in the past".
He said: "It 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."
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Those who are not fully vaccinated will no longer be required to do a day eight test after arriving in the UK and will not have to isolate, the transport secretary also confirmed.
The move comes after chief executives of the UK's largest airlines urged the government to end coronavirus-related travel restrictions due to the impact they were having on the travel industry.
The bosses pointed to evidence that the Omicron variant is in retreat, and argued that current measures have a "limited effect" in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Conservative chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman, said it is a "landmark day for international travel".
Shapps: Move will make travel 'easier'
Announcing the changes in the Commons, Mr Shapps told MPs: "We promised we wouldn't keep these measures in place a day longer than was necessary and it's obvious to me now that border testing for vaccinated travellers has outlived its usefulness, and we're therefore scrapping all travel tests for vaccinated people.
"Not only making travel much easier but also, of course, saving about £100 per family on visits abroad, providing certainty to passengers, to carriers and (the) vital tourism sector for the spring and the summer seasons."
Mr Shapps told MPs the current definition of fully vaccination for the purposes of inbound travel to the UK - two doses of an approved vaccination or one dose of a Janssen vaccine - will remain in place "for now"
He also 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.
In addition, Mr Shapps told MPs the UK is also set to recognise vaccine 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," the transport secretary said.
He added that reconnecting to key markets will not only "boost" the UK economy but also help the aviation industry to "take back to the skies".
Mr Shapps said the government intends to move away from "blanket border measures" to a "more sophisticated and targeted global surveillance system" and that a "strategy" to do so will be set out "next month".
Travel industry welcomes news
easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren welcomed the news, adding: "We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past."
He continued: "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."
Christophe Mathieu, chief executive of Brittany Ferries, added: "As the barriers to travel come down, demand goes up.
"Reservations for spring and summer holidays are roaring ahead, but this latest news means we can expect demand to soar for the February half-term. Let us hope we can put the last of the lockdown obstacles behind us and make 2022 a comeback year to remember."
And Tim Alderslade, chief executive of airline industry body Airlines UK, said the announcement was "a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc".
Earlier, the prime minister said the rules could be lifted because the country was "moving through the Omicron wave".
"So 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 told reporters.
From Thursday, COVID passports and the mandatory wearing of face masks are being scrapped in England - and people are no longer being told to work from home.