COVID travel tests to be scrapped for double jabbed arrivals in time for half term

Watch: Boris Johnson says all travel testing will be scrapped for vaccinated UK arrivals

COVID testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England will be scrapped, Boris Johnson has announced.

Confirming the move, the transport secretary told the House of Commons that post-arrival lateral flow tests would no longer be required from 4am on 11 February.

Grant Shapps told MPs: “That 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.”

Airline bosses had urged the government to loosen restrictions, arguing Omicron is in retreat, and that travel restrictions have a “limited effect” in preventing the spread of the virus.

Speaking during a visit to the Academic Centre, Milton Keynes Hospital, Johnson said: “We have, thanks to the tough decisions, the big calls that we made… the most open economy and society in Europe.

“And although we have to be cautious, we are now moving through the Omicron wave, and you can see the figures are starting to get better.

“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."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears a face mask during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Monday January 24, 2022.
Boris Johnson wears a face mask during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. (PA)

The changes, which will be brought in in time for February half term, will be seen as a major boost for travel firms and families planning an overseas trip.

EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren welcomed the update, saying “millions of our customers” will be “delighted to see the return of restriction-free travel in the UK”.

He went on: “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.”

Read more: We can end 'emergency phase' of COVID in 2022, says WHO

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of airline industry body Airlines UK, said the announcement on the end of testing for fully vaccinated travellers 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,” he said.

Christophe Mathieu, chief executive of Brittany Ferries, said bookings for spring and summer holidays were already “roaring ahead” but the announcement means “we can expect demand to soar for the February half-term”.

Abby Penlington, director at ferry trade association Discover Ferries, said the announcement will make travelling “easier, cheaper and will be a further boost to consumer confidence”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a coronavirus vaccination training hub during a visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Monday January 24, 2022.
The prime minister's announcement has been welcomed by airline bosses. (PA)

The announcement only applies to England, but the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recently implemented Westminster’s changes to international travel rules.

At the moment, fully vaccinated arrivals must pre-book and take a post-arrival test from a private supplier.

This can be a lateral flow test, which typically costs around £19.

It is also expected that vaccines used by more countries will be recognised for travel, and the rules for travellers who are not fully vaccinated will be eased.

Arrivals who are not fully vaccinated must currently 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.

Watch: Which Covid rules are being scrapped in England?