Pre-departure Covid tests for travellers returning to UK to be scrapped, PM confirms

5 January 2022, 16:00

Pre-departure coronavirus tests for all travellers arriving to the UK are set to be scrapped
Pre-departure coronavirus tests for all travellers arriving to the UK are set to be scrapped. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Pre-departure coronavirus tests for all travellers arriving to the UK are to be scrapped on Friday.

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The plans will be a major boost for holidaymakers planning winter sun breaks and the beleaguered travel and tourism industry.

There have been calls to drop the requirement for even fully vaccinated travellers to take a PCR test after arriving in the UK - but such a move may be opposed by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was understood to have pressed for a relaxation of restrictions to help the airline sector. Boris Johnson confirmed the change at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Research commissioned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) - which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports - and trade body Airlines UK indicated that removing all international travel testing would not affect the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.

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Existing rules forced all travellers aged 12 and over to show proof of a negative test, which could be a PCR or a lateral flow test, up to two days before departure for the UK.

Travellers then had to take another PCR test within the first two days after their arrival in the UK, while people who are not fully vaccinated are required to self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish and Airlines UK boss Tim Alderslade released a joint statement on Tuesday saying the requirements could be removed "without impacting overall case rates and hospitalisations in the UK".

"The Health Secretary rightly acknowledged as early as 8 December that the value of any form of restrictions was significantly reduced once Omicron became dominant in the UK," they wrote.

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"This latest research by Oxera and Edge Health clearly supports the position that travel testing requirements can be removed in full without impacting overall case rates and hospitalisations in the UK.

"It should give the UK Government confidence to press ahead with the immediate removal of these emergency restrictions, giving people back the freedom to travel internationally to see loved ones, explore new places and generate new business opportunities."

Mr Cornish and Mr Alderslade said the restrictions "come at a huge cost to the travel industry" and the broader UK economy.

Separate research commissioned by Oxera showed extra testing in response to Omicron reduced the UK aviation sector's contribution to the economy by £60m a week.