Covid travel rules latest as holiday bookings soar after UK changes

Covid travel rules have been updated, sparking a surge in holiday bookings.

Pre-departure tests for those arriving in England are to be scrapped from 4am on Friday, January 7, 2022, in a major boost for the stricken travel industry, Boris Johnson announced.

He said the Omicron variant is now so prevalent that the measure is having limited impact on the spread of the disease.

The requirement for travellers to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative PCR test is also being dropped.

Instead, the rules will revert to the system that was in place in October, with travellers required to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after their arrival.

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In Wales, health minister Eluned Morgan said they would be “reluctantly” following suit.

The measures were originally introduced following the identification of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in South Africa last November.

Mr Johnson told the House: “When the Omicron variant was first identified, we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country.

“But now Omicron is so prevalent, these measures are having limited impact on the growth in cases, while continuing to pose significant costs on our travel industry.

“So I can announce that in England from 4am on Friday, we will be scrapping the pre-departure test, which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.”

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What are all the new rules?

From 4am on Friday, January 7, if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England and you will arrive after then, you do NOT need to:

  • take a Covid-19 test before you travel to England
  • quarantine when you arrive in England

And from 4am on Sunday, January 9, if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, and you will arrive after then, you can choose to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test after you get here.

If you take a lateral flow test and test positive, you will need to self-isolate and take a free PCR test.

You must book the test before you travel to England. Tests can be booked from 4am on January 7.

You cannot use a lateral flow test until after 4am on January 9. Before then, you must use a PCR test after arrival.

The fully vaccinated rules also apply to children aged 17 and under, people taking part in an approved vaccine trial, and people who are unable to have a vaccination due to medical reasons.

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What if I’m not fully vaccinated?

The rules for people who do not qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England will remain the same.

Before you travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test in the two days before you travel to England
  • book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 Covid-19 PCR tests – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive in England

After you arrive in England you must:

  • quarantine at home for 10 full days
  • take your Covid-19 PCR tests – you must book these tests before you travel. You must take the first test on or before Day 2 and the second on or after Day 8.

If your Day 2 test is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 full days and don’t need to take the Day 8 test.

If your Day 2 test is negative, you must continue to quarantine and must still take your Day 8 test. If the second test is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 full days; if it’s negative, you can stop quarantining.

Are there still red, green and amber travel lists?

The UK’s red list was scrapped in mid-December, with no countries on it.

The green and amber lists were scrapped last October.

How the travel industry reacted

The announcement was welcomed by the travel industry, which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays reported a bookings increase of 150 per cent after the news, saying customers were flocking to book holidays across popular sun, ski and city destinations including mainland Spain, the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, Turkey, and Greece.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “The relaxation of travel restrictions is welcome news for both the travel industry and holidaymakers and comes during what is traditionally a very busy period for holiday bookings.

“We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the Government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels, which demonstrates just how much demand is out there amongst people wanting to get away for a much-needed holiday.

“We were already heading into the New Year with a strong feeling of positivity and confidence, and the removal of these restrictions really gets 2022 off to a great start.”

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a “massive boost” for the sector at a “critical” time of the year.

“People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed,” he said.

“Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren also welcomed the move but said the Government needed to go further.

“This will make travel much simpler and easier and means our customers can book and travel with confidence,” he said.

“However, the Government must now urgently take the final step towards restriction-free travel and remove the last remaining unnecessary test for vaccinated travellers so flying does not become the preserve of the rich.”

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said: “Although this is welcome news, there is still a long way back for aviation which remains the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, supporting millions of jobs in all four nations.”