Tourists returning to England after holidaying in the Murcia region will be able to take advantage of more convenient and less expensive coronavirus testing rules.
In an official statement the UK government announced that “eligible fully vaccinated passengers and under-18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test or self-isolate on arrival in England from 4am on Friday 7 January but must continue to take their post-arrival tests.
“From 4am on Sunday 9 January, eligible fully vaccinated travellers and over-fives will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR on or before day two of their arrival in England. Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from Friday 7 January and taken upon arrival, by the end of day two.”
The government said it had based its decision on data showing that Omicron is the dominant variant in the UK and, as it is spreading widely in the community, “it is now proportionate to cautiously reduce testing measures at the borders”.
Anyone who receives a positive result on their lateral flow test will be required to self-isolate immediately and order a NHS PCR test from gov.uk. “Positive PCR tests for arrivals will be sequenced to understand if and where variants are emerging around the globe in order to protect the UK public.”
Commenting on the eased rules, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said, “As we learn more about the Omicron variant it is right that we keep our testing and border measures under review to ensure they remain proportionate. The steps we’re taking will make travel easier for people while protecting the UK public from the virus.”
Added transport secretary Grant Shapps, “I’ve always said that we won’t keep international travel restrictions in place any longer than they are necessary to protect public health. That’s why we’re removing the temporary, extra testing measures we introduced for Omicron in November, making travel easier and cheaper for fully vaccinated passengers and providing a big boost for the travel industry as we enter the peak new year booking period. We want to provide more certainty to passengers and businesses, and will do a full review of our international travel measures for 2022 by the end of the month.”
According to Dr Susan Hopkins of the UK Health Security Agency, “It is vital that anyone who receives a positive day two lateral flow test self-isolates immediately and orders a PCR on gov.uk. All travel PCRs with high amounts of virus are sequenced to help us understand if any new variants are emerging around the world and entering the UK.”
The government noted that lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider as NHS Test and Trace lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel.
Passengers who have already bought a PCR to use for travel do not need to buy another test as PCRs can still be used. Unvaccinated passengers must continue to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two and on or after day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days. “Test to release” remains an option for unvaccinated people to shorten their self-isolation period.
Last month it was announced that children aged from 12 to 15 years would have access to a NHS COVID Pass letter to facilitate family travel plans.