London: Britain on Monday announced that it will scrap COVID-19 test requirements for fully vaccinated travellers entering England from next month.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made a statement in the House of Commons outlining the COVID travel update, confirming that from 4am local time on February 11 travellers who have had both doses of a COVID vaccine will no longer be required to take a test within two days of arriving in England.
"We are removing all testing measures for eligible fully vaccinated arrivals to England from 4am on February 11," said Shapps.
"These changes have been made possible by the success of our vaccine and booster rollout. Arrivals in England who aren't fully vaccinated will only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two after arriving in England. All passengers will still need to complete a Passenger Locator Form, he said.
Shapps clarified that "fully vaccinated" means two doses of an approved vaccination, including those administered in India, or one dose of a Janssen vaccine.
"That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation, additional expense, all that fully vaccinated people will now have to do, when they travel to the UK, is to verify their status via a Passenger Locator Form," Shapps told the House of Commons.
The minister said that passengers who do not qualify as fully vaccinated will no longer be required to do a day eight test after arrival, or self-isolate.
"They will still need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form to demonstrate proof of a negative COVID test taken two days before they travel and they must still take a post-arrival PCR test," he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had revealed the travel update earlier while speaking to reporters during a visit to a hospital in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, as he said the daily Omicron variant data is getting better and it was time for the country to be more open for travellers.
Over the weekend, the UK recorded 74,799 cases and 75 COVID deaths.
"Although we have to be cautious, we are now moving through the Omicron wave, and you can see the figures are starting to get better, said Johnson.
"So what we're doing on travel, to show that this country is open for business, open for travellers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated," he said.
Fully vaccinated travellers currently need to do a lateral flow or PCR test within two days of arriving in England after a pre-arrival test requirement was done away with earlier this week. The devolved regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland usually adopt similar rules on travel.
The move will be welcomed by the travel and tourism industry, one of the sectors most badly affected worldwide by coronavirus lockdown measures.
There had been widespread calls for the government to abandon the burden of tests for those who have had at least two doses of a COVID vaccine. The government has indicated that the third booster dose is also likely to be added on to the so-called COVID vaccine pass to qualify as fully vaccinated, some time in the future.
Under current rules which will change from February 11, travellers who are not fully vaccinated must take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, which are more expensive than the lateral flow version. They must also self-isolate for 10 days.
From Thursday, England's stricter Plan B restrictions come to an end, which means COVID passes for entry to larger venues and the mandatory wearing of face masks will be scrapped and people are no longer being told to work from home. It follows an announcement in Parliament last week confirming that the Omicron wave has most likely peaked in the country.