By John Flett
U.K. ‘Open for Travel’ with Lifting of Testing for Vaccinated Passengers
The U.K. government has declared that England is “open for travel? with the announcement that all Covid-19 testing requirements will be lifted for vaccinated travellers starting at 4 a.m. on Feb. 11. The removal of the often-changing and expensive testing conditions comes ahead of the one-week mid-term school holiday break that is popular with families heading away on European holidays.
“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,” U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated while announcing the changes. “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.”
The U.K government — and Shapps specifically — have been criticized by industry bodies in the past for the lack of rationale, complexity and short notice of the implementation of travel restrictions. The complicated traffic light system in particular was seen as overly restrictive with inconsistent application affecting passenger demand. However, this week’s news was universally welcomed by leaders in the aviation industry.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive officer of Airlines U.K., the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said, “This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc. Nearly two years since the initial Covid restrictions were introduced, today’s announcement brings international travel towards near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy.”
“The removal of all testing for vaccinated passengers is the final step in moving towards frictionless air travel, allowing passengers to reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues. It restores customer confidence and demand will be boosted in a critical booking window for the travel industry,” Virgin Atlantic said in a statement to BBC News.
Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland Kaye called the government’s lifting of testing for vaccinated travellers “a really good step forward and we should celebrate it, and I think the government has made the right step in taking an international lead in reopening international travel.”
In an article in The National, Holland-Kaye also called on the U.K. government to do more in preparation for any further variants of concern and any reintroduction of restrictive measures.
“We hope those [restrictions] will be targeted just on countries which have the variants of concern, rather than the blanket ban that we saw a couple of months ago,” he wrote.