Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Government will be scrapping the pre-departure test for travellers returning to the UK and will be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative test.
He told the House of Commons: “Our balanced approach also means that where specific measures are no longer serving their purpose, they will be dropped. So, 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 have a limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing to pose significant cost to our travel industry.
You can sign up to our daily e-bulletins of business news or our weekly round-up of the best articles in key sectors. Sign up here
“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 in significant extra expenses. We will also be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until received a negative PCR, returning instead to the system we had in October last year where those arriving in England will need to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two and if positive, a further PCR test.”
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce said that travel companies would be helped by the decision to scrap pre-departure Covid tests for travellers to England.
She said: “The easing of testing requirements for travel should provide a welcome boost to a sector that has been among the hardest hit throughout the pandemic.”
It comes after calls to drop the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a PCR test after arriving in the UK.
Research commissioned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – and trade body Airlines UK indicated that removing all international travel testing would not affect the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.
The analysis, conducted by Oxera and Edge Health, concluded that domestic restrictions would be the only way to reduce Covid cases related to the strain.
Other developments today include scrapping a confirmatory PCR test for asymptomatic people who have a lateral flow positive test.
The daily testing of ‘critical workers’ will also be introduced from January 10.
Mr Johnson said the Government was sticking with Plan B measures to avoid further restrictions.
He said: “People in England should carry on working from home whenever they can, wear face coverings on public transport and in most indoor public places and take a test before going to high risk venues or meeting the elderly or vulnerable.
“All of these measures are helping to take the edge off the Omicron wave, slow the spread of infection, manage the immediate pressures on our NHS and buy time for the boosters to take effect.
He added: “Faced with these pressures on our NHS, I know some members may ask the opposite question whether we should go even further and move towards a full lockdown, but lockdowns are not cost free, they impose a devastating toll on our physical and mental well being, on our businesses, jobs and livelihoods and worst of all on the life chances of our children, so this Government does not believe we need to shut down our country again.
“Instead we are taking a balanced approach.”