England eases travel restrictions; scraps pre-departure COVID-19 tests

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Travelers who plan to enter England can now expect smoother and easier arrivals. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on January 5, 2022, updated travel requirements for arrivals into England. 

Starting 04:00 on January 7, 2022, fully vaccinated travelers entering England will no longer have to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test nor quarantine upon arrival in the country. A PCR test after arrival is still required until 04:00 January 9, 2022.

Fully vaccinated travelers arriving from 04:00 on January 9, 2022, can opt to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test after arrival in England.

Lateral flow tests (average cost $40 / £30) are much more convenient and less expensive than PCR tests (average cost $110 / £ 80).

Anyone who receives a positive result on their lateral flow test must self-isolate immediately and order an NHS PCR test from gov.uk.

Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days.

PM Johnson said – as the travel industry had long argued – that the latest COVID-19 variant Omicron was “so prevalent these measures have a limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing to pose a significant cost to our travel industry”.

Johnson also said the pre-departure test “discourages many from traveling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense”.

Travel industry leaders welcomed this update on eased travel restrictions with open arms.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said, “This is a hugely welcome move at a critical time in the booking season for passengers, and will provide a massive boost to those wanting to travel abroad or come to the UK this year.

“People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed. Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) also reacted positively to the announcement. “The removal of these temporary measures is an important recognition that travel restrictions should not remain in place if they no longer help prevent the spread of the virus,” MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Government on a roadmap for the removal of all remaining restrictions, in order to help our prized aviation sector enjoy a full recovery.”

easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, added: “We welcome the government’s decision to remove the unnecessary and costly pre-departure testing for travelers and revert to a single lateral flow test on arrival. 

“This will make travel much simpler and easier and means our customers can book and travel with confidence. However, the government must now urgently take the final step towards restriction-free travel and remove the last remaining unnecessary test for vaccinated travelers so flying does not become the preserve of the rich. Despite the short-term impact of Omicron, we remain excited about our plans for next summer which should see us return to 2019 levels of capacity and beyond.”

The complete guidelines and requirements for current travel to England can be reviewed here.

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