Following requests from the travel sector, the government has announced that testing regulations will be relaxed for visitors visiting England.
Fully vaccinated visitors to England will no longer be required to undergo a test before traveling starting at 04:00 GMT on Friday. They can also undergo a cheaper lateral flow test on day two of arrival instead of a PCR test starting on Sunday. The restrictions for self-isolation upon arrival will be altered as well.
Boris Johnson revealed the shake-up earlier this week, following complaints from travel companies that the safeguards were ineffective now that Omicron had spread widely.
All fully-vaccinated travelers over the age of 12 must present documentation of a negative test lateral flow or PCR test is taken in the two days before arriving in the UK, according to existing restrictions in effect until Friday. People who have been fully vaccinated must also pay for a PCR test within two days of arrival and segregate themselves while waiting for the results.
People who haven’t been vaccinated must now do PCR tests on days two and eight after arriving, as well as self-isolate for ten days.
Under new rules
- People who are fully vaccinated and under the age of 18 will no longer need to undergo a test two days before traveling to England from countries outside the UK and the Common Travel Area as of 04:00 GMT on Friday 7 January. They will be required to take a PCR test upon arrival, but they will no longer be required to self-isolate while waiting for the results.
- On day two, they will just have to undergo a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test starting at 04:00 GMT on Sunday, January 9th. However, this test must be
purchased from a commercial testing company; free NHS tests are not permitted.
- Not-vaccinated passengers must perform a pre-departure test, PCR tests on days two and eight, and self-isolate for ten days.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, said the pre-departure test “discourages many people from traveling overseas for fear of getting trapped and incurring significant extra expenses.”
The announcement comes after airlines said that passenger testing was having little effect, citing figures from last week that suggested one in every 25 individuals in England was infected with the virus. Moreover, they said compulsory testing had slowed the sector’s recovery.
Mr. Johnson met with his cabinet earlier this week, and the government announced that, in addition to changes to travel tests, it will modify Covid testing criteria for people who don’t have any symptoms. And that a PCR will no longer be required to confirm a positive lateral flow test.
Mr. Johnson said on Tuesday that he hoped the country could “ride out” the current storm, albeit he admitted that the NHS would be temporarily overwhelmed.
For now, the rule change will apply only to England and will become effective on 11 January.
After the announcement for England, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said, “I have reluctantly agreed to reduce the need for fully vaccinated passengers and under 18s to undertake a pre-departure test (PDT) and a day 2 PCR test when landing in the UK.”