All Covid tests for travel could be removed, suggests Grant Shapps

All Covid tests for travel will disappear, Grant Shapps has suggested, as holiday firms saw a surge in bookings.

The Transport Secretary indicated that the final lateral flow swabs that fully jabbed holidaymakers still have to take on arrival in the UK will be axed, to allow test-free travel.

Sources suggested it would happen within “a reasonable time frame” as ministers sought to revive the travel industry after two years of on-off restrictions.

His pledge came as travel companies reported increases of between 40 and 200 per cent in website visits or bookings, after the Government’s decision to ditch PCR and pre-departure tests for fully-jabbed travellers.

Pre-departure tests are axed from 4am on Friday, while PCR day two tests and the associated self-isolation will disappear from Sunday under the changes announced on Wednesday.

Mr Shapps said the tests, introduced to combat the spread of the omicron variant, had “outlived their usefulness” as the Government eased restrictions to allow people to live with the virus.

“I could see a world in which you didn’t need to do testing at all. I can’t guarantee it will be the same the other way around because that depends on what other countries around the world decide to put in place,” he said.

“I do imagine that we will, for the foreseeable future, be living in a world where vaccination status is something that countries are looking for. Certainly when I speak to a lot of my opposite numbers around the world, that’s what they ask about.”

He stressed that the unvaccinated still faced pre-departure tests, 10-day quarantine and PCR swabs on days two and eight.

Ministers are also considering adding the third booster jabs to the definition of fully vaccinated, which would leave those who spurned them facing the reintroduction of tests.

Surge in bookings

EasyJet reported that it had seen a boost of almost 200 per cent in UK bookings following the Government’s lifting of restrictions. It said more easyJet flights were on sale from London Gatwick than ever before, with 1.1 million seats recently added.

British Airways said searches for holidays were up by nearly 40 per cent on the week before, with New York, Dubai and Barbados the most popular destinations. Virgin Atlantic reported a 150 per cent rise week on week, with Orlando, New York and Barbados topping the list.

Jet2holidays has also confirmed bookings have increased by 150 per cent day-on-day.

“We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the Government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels,” said Steve Heapy, chief executive.

Both Travelbag and Travel Republic have also reported spikes in bookings, especially for popular winter sun destinations such as Dubai and the Maldives.

Skiers are seizing the opportunity to book a last-minute trip too. Ski instructor marketplace, Maison Sport, has reported a 100 per cent increase in bookings overnight, all bolstered by fresh snowfall in Europe’s top ski resorts.

“Search levels, which were already up on the weekend, continue to increase and with great snow conditions and plenty of excellent value deals still available now’s the time to book,” said Chris Logan, managing director of Crystal Ski Holidays.