Vaccinated visitors can now enter the UK without having to undergo coronavirus testing after the government lifted one of the final restrictions placed in response to COVID-19 over the last two years.
Visitors and returning residents who have received at least two doses of an approved coronavirus vaccine must now fill out a passenger locator form before going to the UK. Unvaccinated travellers must still take tests before and after arrival, but they are no longer required to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
According to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the UK “today has one of the world’s most free-flowing borders, sending a clear message that we are open for business.”
After two years of severely restricted travel, airlines and other travel companies hailed the shift as a lifeline. According to Andrew Flintham, managing director of travel company Tui UK, there is “a significant pent-up demand for overseas travel,” and people are hurrying to book holidays for the February school break and the Easter holiday in April.
Gatwick, London’s second busiest airport, announced intentions to reopen the second of its two terminals, closed since June 2020, next month.
Sean Doyle, CEO of British Airways, urged other countries to adopt Britain’s “pragmatic approach.”
Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government relaxed most domestic regulations. Face masks are no longer required in most indoor areas in England, and vaccine passports for admission into nightclubs and large-scale events, as well as government recommendations to work from home, have been withdrawn. Other parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, have likewise lifted most restrictions.
Johnson indicated last week that he expects to relax the final restriction – mandatory self-isolation for those who test positive – by the end of February as part of a long-term COVID-19 management strategy. Officials have stated that the government intends to shift from legal limitations to advisory measures when the coronavirus grows endemic.
Since the peak of the omicron increase in early January, the number of new infections and COVID-19 patients admitted to hospitals in the United Kingdom has decreased. Officials credit the government’s booster jab programme for keeping the omicron outbreak from causing significant stress in UK hospitals. In the United Kingdom, 84.6 per cent of people aged 12 and over have had two doses of vaccine.