[Article updated on January 5 at 17:00 with additional information about the planned rule changes]
Members of the travel industry have called for UK rules on travel testing to be scrapped as the government prepares its latest review of Covid restrictions.
It is thought that the Department for Transport could announce later today (January 5) that compulsory pre-departure tests for inbound travellers to the UK could be removed.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy PC Agency, has also tweeted this afternoon that day two PCR tests could be dropped in favour of cheaper lateral flow options from Friday (January 7) at 04:00
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has claimed following the results of a study it commissioned that “the removal of all testing requirements on international travel this month would not impact the spread of Omicron.
“Further findings showed that pre-departure and day two PCR testing introduced in late November and early December respectively had little to no impact on Omicron case rates in the UK, compared to if the travel policy of a single day two antigen test had stayed the same,” the Group said.
“The impact of the re-introduction of testing requirements for international travel was felt by the sector from early December, with the recovery of passenger numbers at MAG’s airports falling by more than 30% after Omicron measures were introduced.
“An economic impact study, also conducted by Oxera at the time, showed that extra testing in response to Omicron reduced the UK aviation’s contribution to the economy by £60m per week.”
The Group’s CEO Charlie Cornish joined Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade in saying: “Travel restrictions come at huge cost to the travel industry, and to the UK economy as a whole, placing jobs at risk and holding back the recovery of one of our most important sectors. It is therefore vital they do not remain in place a day longer than is necessary.”
French travel rules have impacted us too, says ferry firm
A Brittany Ferries spokesperson told The Connexion that it is waiting to hear what the government announces, adding “fingers crossed for positive news.”
He also commented that French travel restrictions had impacted passenger numbers and bookings, saying that: “We saw a considerable number of amendments and cancellations following the French government announcement on December 18, particularly for January bookings, and as a result we have suspended our Portsmouth - St Malo route until February 17.
“We continue to operate our Portsmouth - Caen and Portsmouth - Cherbourg routes. We have contacted all customers affected by this change with the choice of an alternative sailing or refund,” he added.
In December, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that if and when Omicron became the dominant variant, there would be “less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all.”
Yesterday (January 4), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he hoped that the UK could “ride out” the Omicron-related surge in Covid case numbers without imposing further restrictions.
The BBC also reports that the government will do away with advice which encourages people who receive a positive lateral flow result to follow up with a confirmatory PCR, a step which the UK Health Security Agency says will come into force on January 11.
From that date, anyone in England who receives a positive lateral flow result should report their result on gov.uk and self-isolate immediately, but will not need to take a follow-up PCR test.
What are the rules for travelling between France and the UK?
On December 18, France introduced new restrictions which effectively barred people travelling from the UK for tourism or non-essential work purposes.
Now, only those who have an essential reason for travel – normally involving being a French national or resident – may enter the country.
If you are allowed to go to France from the UK, you must take a pre-departure PCR or lateral flow (antigen) test in the 24 hours before you begin your journey.
You must also fill in an online declaration form before you travel, including details of the address that you will be staying at for the first 10 days after your arrival.
This will generate a prefectural decree requiring you to quarantine for 10 days, although this self-isolation period can be shortened if you can provide the negative result of a PCR or antigen test taken at least 48 hours after arrival.
You are allowed to leave quarantine to carry out this test in a pharmacy, test centre or equivalent, but you should try to limit your time outside as much as possible by staying close to your home or accommodation.
If you are travelling to the UK from France, you must currently carry out an antigen or PCR test in the two days before your journey begins, and be able to present the negative result to the travel company.
Before you travel, you must also book a further PCR test to be taken on or before day two after your arrival, the day you enter the country being day zero.
If you are unvaccinated, you will also be required to quarantine for 10 days and take a further test on or after day eight.
These rules generally apply for people over the age of 12, although you can consult our dedicated travel rules article for further information.