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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

UK travel update: Pre-departure tests for travellers to be scrapped from Friday

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PCR tests for travellers arriving in the UK will no longer be required from 7 January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed.

From 4am on Friday, fully vaccinated people returning to the country will no longer have to take pre-departure tests and won’t have to self isolate upon arrival. Instead, they will have to take a lateral flow test at the end of day two after they arrive in the UK.

If this test is positive, travellers will then have to take a PCR test to confirm and help identify any new variants. It is the same system that was in place in October last year.

New requirements introduced after the discovery of the Omicron variant mean that currently fully vaccinated travellers over the age of 12 are required to pay for a PCR test within 48 hours of arriving in the UK.

Unvaccinated travellers must take pre-booked PCR tests on both day two and day eight of arriving as well as self-isolating for 10 days.

But this is now set to change as Boris Johnson told the Houses of Parliament that these measures were “having limited impact” on the spread of Omicron.

He added that pre-departure tests “discourage many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Twitter that as “Omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.”

He also added that travellers cannot use free NHS lateral flow tests to protect the capacity of the health system.

These changes to restrictions in the UK come after travel firms called for them to be scrapped saying they were making no impact on the spread of the virus. They also said that compulsory testing had been holding back the sector’s recovery from the pandemic.

Trade body Airlines UK said ahead of the announcement that continuing the current travel testing measures would be disastrous for the industry.

Shapps confirmed that a full review of UK travel measures is expected at the end of January to “ensure a stable system is in place for 2022.”

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