Tourists returning to the UK from a holiday in the Murcia region will soon no longer have to test for COVID, provided they fulfil ongoing vaccination requirements.
In a decision described as a “landmark day” by Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK, the British government announced that from 4 am on 11 February all testing requirements will be removed for eligible fully vaccinated arrivals from around the world, with only a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) required.
Arriving travellers who are not recognised as fully vaccinated will still need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two after they arrive in the UK.
In a press release, the government said, “The simplification of travel rules comes just before half-term, providing welcome news for families looking to travel abroad during the school holidays, as well as an extra boost for the tourism industry.
“Thanks to the success of the UK’s vaccine and booster rollout, the government is now able to reduce the number of travel restrictions, ensuring there is a more proportionate system in place for passengers.
“The framework set out today is intended to be one that will last. It aims to provide stability for travellers and the travel industry throughout 2022, ensuring the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do business. Meanwhile, friends and families can make the most of their global connections, while saving around £100 for the average family with the removal of testing.”
Children aged 12-15 in England will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3 February for outbound travel, “making it easier for children and families to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination or prior infection to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
“It will also enable families to plan holidays for February half-term with greater confidence, as parents can be reassured they will quickly be able to evidence their child’s vaccination status or proof of prior infection for outbound travel and meet the requirements of different countries more easily.”
For inward travel, all under-18s – regardless of their individual vaccination status – will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
“Balanced Approach” for New Chapter
Announcing the changes, transport secretary Grant Shapps said, “One of the first western European countries to lift isolation requirements for all arrivals who do not qualify as fully vaccinated, the UK will also scale back travel restrictions for unvaccinated arrivals.
“We will be further reconnecting with key global markets, and from 4am on 11 February we will recognise vaccine certificates from 16 further countries and territories at the border, including China and Mexico. This will bring the total list to over 180 countries and territories worldwide.”
Added health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, “We have entered a new chapter in our fight against COVID-19 and we’re taking a balanced approach as we learn to live with the virus. Thanks to the success of the vaccination program, now is the right time to take this additional step towards opening up international travel once again.
“While the red list will continue to remain in place as our first line of defence against future variants of concern arriving from abroad, the government is looking to replace the hotel quarantine policy with other contingency measures including home isolation and further details will be set out on this later in the spring.”
Also commenting on the decision, Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said, “This 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.
“It will offer further reassurance to those planning to travel, both overseas and into the UK… With the all-important half-term week approaching, passengers should now get booking, and airlines look forward to using the connectivity they’re proud to facilitate to turbo-charge the economic recovery for all of the UK.”
In a response mirrored by other airline industry representatives, EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said, “We welcome this news knowing that millions of our customers will also be delighted to see the return of restriction free travel in the UK. We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer.
“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. We commend the government for removing all testing. EasyJet plans to return to near 2019 levels of flying this summer and so we can’t wait to welcome our customers back onboard.”