England to end Covid-19 testing for arriving vaccinated travellers

The new rules are part of a general easing of Covid-19 restrictions as the UK starts to treat the virus as endemic. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Britain will stop requiring vaccinated travellers to take a Covid-19 test after arriving in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (Jan 24).

The new rules come on the heels of a recent lifting of pre-flight test requirements, and are part of a general easing of Covid-19 restrictions as the UK starts to treat the virus as endemic.

"To show that this country is open for business, open for travellers, you will see changes," Mr Johnson told broadcasters on Monday in a pooled interview. "People arriving no longer have to take tests" if they are double vaccinated.

The change will lower the cost of travel and give consumers more confidence their plans will not be upended at the last minute by yet another rule change or a positive test.

Airlines, which have sought to lift all testing requirements, are sure to get a boost - as are hotels and restaurants. Carriers welcomed the government's decision, which comes ahead of the half-term school holidays next month, followed by spring break and the busy summer season.

"We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past," said Mr Johan Lundgren, the chief executive officer of discount carrier EasyJet. "We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer."

Airline shares fell steeply amid a broad market selloff. EasyJet was down 4 per cent at 1.28pm in London. British Airways owner IAG lost 6 per cent and Irish discounter Ryanair Holdings was off 5.5 per cent.

Omicron setback

Travel was starting to come back in the fall, just before the rapid spread of the Omicron variant reversed a loosening of border policies for those who were inoculated.

The number of international flights currently scheduled from the UK during the February half-term holiday are up six-fold from a year ago but remain 41 per cent below 2020, before initial European lockdowns took effect, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium. Spain is the most popular destination followed by Ireland.

"This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK PLCs (public limited companies)," said Mr Tim Alderslade, who heads the Airlines UK industry lobby. "Nearly two years since the initial Covid-19 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."

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to give more detail on the new policy in a statement to the House of Commons on Monday.

The UK has been easing its "Plan B" Covid-19 restrictions that were implemented across England in December when the Omicron variant spread quickly through the population.

People are no longer being asked to work from home, and rules forcing people to wear face masks in shops and on public transport will be dropped from Jan 27.

Mandatory Covid-19 passes for businesses will also end this week.

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