[Update January 25 at 09:25 - the full details of the UK's travel rule relaxation have now been released, and can be found in our article here]
Day two testing is to be scrapped for fully vaccinated people arriving in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed.
"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,” Mr Johnson told broadcasters at a visit to Milton Keynes Hospital today (January 24).
“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 are vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated.”
He did not say when the current travel restrictions would be relaxed, but Transport Minister Grant Shapps is expected to make a statement later today. Reports have suggested a possible date of February 11 at 04:00.
Fully vaccinated travellers are currently required to take an antigen (lateral flow) or PCR test on or before day two after their arrival in the UK.
The change will apply to all arrivals from any country in the world.
Unvaccinated adults must take a PCR test on or before day two and on or after day eight, as well as isolating on arrival, and this rule looks set to stay in place.
Travellers count as being fully vaccinated for entry into the UK two weeks after having received their second vaccine dose (or first in the case of the single-dose Janssen jab). You do not currently need to have had a booster to travel to the UK.
All passengers also need to complete a passenger locator form before travelling to the UK under current rules, and there has been no mention of this being dropped.
There has as yet been no announcement from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments on the subject, although they have previously aligned with English rule changes.
This relaxation will be good news for tourists and travel operators. Earlier this month, Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye said that the aviation industry would only recover from the pandemic when all travel restrictions were lifted.
“As the barriers to travel come down, demand goes up,” Christophe Mathieu, CEO of Brittany Ferries, told The Connexion. “Reservations for spring and summer holidays are roaring ahead, but this latest news means we can expect demand to soar for the February half-term. Let us hope we can put the last of the lockdown obstacles behind us and make 2022 a comeback year to remember.”
A spokesperson for EasyJet told The Connexion that: “We welcome this news knowing that millions of our customers will also be delighted to see the return of restriction free travel in the UK. We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer.
“We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past. It is clear travel restrictions did not materially slow the spread of Omicron in the UK and so it is important that there are no more knee jerk reactions to future variants.
“We commend the government for removing all testing. EasyJet plans to return to near 2019 levels of flying this summer and so we can’t wait to welcome our customers back onboard.”
However, University of Leeds virologist Dr Stephen Griffin has urged caution, telling the BBC: “You have a moral responsibility to monitor and to know if you’re infectious. It is a good idea to test.”
Children gain access to NHS app for travel
It has also been announced that children aged 12 to 15 will for the first time be able to access their vaccination records or proof of recent infection through the NHS app. This means that by half term they will be able to display proof of their Covid status more easily when travelling abroad.
This may help when trying to create a French health pass, for example.
Families have until now had to apply for a paper form of the Covid records, and many have been affected by delays.