The requirement that all travelers to England have pre-departure tests has been dropped, according to an announcement from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The new rules allow fully vaccinated arriving passengers and those under 18, to board flights bound for England without producing a negative PCR test.
The new policy goes into effect as of 4:00 AM on Friday, Jan. 7.
The testing mandate was introduced four weeks ago at the beginning of the Christmas travel period, in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of the omicron variant.
Recent research demonstrated that the policy had made little or no difference to the spread of omicron, but resulted in huge disruption for travelers.
In a tweet, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, “We’re removing the temporary extra testing measures we introduced last year at the border to slow cases of omicron coming to the UK. Now Omicron is the dominant variant & is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.”
The government has also announced it is lifting the requirement that travelers to England quarantine on arrival pending the receipt of a negative PCR test result. In its place, the policy is returning to the previous protocol of taking a lateral flow test on or before Day 2. If this is positive, then a PCR test must be taken.
“The removal of pre-departure testing recognizes that with the omicron variant widespread throughout the UK these tests do not serve a useful purpose,” commented Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA – The Travel Association.
“We also welcome the move to change post-arrival Day 2 PCR tests to cheaper lateral flow tests, returning to the process in place in October 2021 before Omicron emerged and reducing testing costs for travelers,” Tanzer added.
“We’re pleased the government has kept to its word,” said Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer, American Express Global Business Travel. “Removing pre-departure testing for UK arrivals and self-isolation requirements is the right decision and a positive step forward for business travel recovery.”