All testing measures for eligible fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be removed from 4am on 11 February, as the government goes one step further to reopen the travel sector.
The changes mean that the UK has one of the most free-flowing borders across Europe in addition to having the most open economy and society.
The simplification of travel rules comes just before half term, providing welcome news for families looking to travel abroad during the school holidays, as well as an extra boost for the tourism industry.
Thanks to the success of the UK’s vaccine and booster rollout, the government is now able to reduce the number of travel restrictions, ensuring there is a more proportionate system in place for passengers. Before the end of February, eligible fully vaccinated travellers will only need to fill out the passenger locator form (PLF), which will be simplified, confirming their vaccination status, travel history and contact details, and people will have an extra day to fill it out before travelling.
The framework set out today is intended to be one that will last. It aims to provide stability for travellers and the travel industry throughout 2022, ensuring the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do business. Meanwhile, friends and families can make the most of their global connections, while saving around £100 for the average family with the removal of testing.
Children aged 12-15 in England will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3 February for outbound travel, making it easier for children and families to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination or prior infection to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
It will also enable families to plan holidays for February half term with greater confidence, as parents can be reassured they will quickly be able to evidence their child’s vaccination status or proof of prior infection for outbound travel and meet the requirements of different countries more easily.
For inward travel, all under-18s regardless of their individual vaccination status will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
We made the right calls at the right time and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout it’s paying off – allowing us to safely remove nearly all COVID-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
We already have one of the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of the changes today we now have a travel sector to match it.
This final step in our stable and safe full return to international travel is a major boost for UK tourism, setting Britain free ahead of the crucial half term and spring holiday season.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
We have entered a new chapter in our fight against COVID-19 and we’re taking a balanced approach as we learn to live with the virus.
Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, now is the right time to take this additional step towards opening up international travel once again.
Extending the NHS COVID Pass to children aged 12-15 in England will also make the outward journey easier for families and I am delighted we have taken this step in time for February half term.
While the red list will continue to remain in place as our first line of defence against future variants of concern arriving from abroad, the government is looking to replace the hotel quarantine policy with other contingency measures including home isolation and further details will be set out on this later in the spring.
Throughout the pandemic, the government has taken a balanced approach to COVID-19 measures, considering the freedoms of individuals together with public health concerns. Omicron is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the UK and around the world and the latest data indicates that vaccinated individuals are less likely to have severe outcomes if they catch Omicron, in comparison with Delta. Taken with the success of the booster programme, now is the right time to take proportionate steps to further remove travel restrictions.
Commenting, Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality, said: “This is a sensible and pragmatic step towards normality, given the encouraging fall in cases, the general easing of restrictions and given the UK’s position as a leading destination for international tourists and as a major business and commerce hub.
“This is a very welcome shot in the arm for hotels and tourism-reliant businesses, as we learn to live with the virus. It will deliver much-needed confidence for international travellers destined for the UK. Our hospitality and tourism industries have endured extremely challenging times and our hope is that this marks the start of a more benign phase for both society and business.
“It comes at the start of what can be a very positive year for the UK economy and for tourism particularly, given the calendar ahead which includes the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games. With the right conditions and support, this industry can help to drive the recovery, to growth and job creation, and reassert the UK’s position as a leading destination. To support this year of revival we would urge Government to extend the reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism.”
The new rules will come into operation at 4am on the 11th of February, and will apply to all inbound visitors to the UK, including UK citizens returning from overseas travel.