Pre-departure tests for travel to England to be removed

5 Jan 2022 by Tom Otley
Express Test screening site at Heathrow airport

The pre-departure tests for travel to England will be removed from 0400 on Friday (January 7), the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.

The requirement that all travellers to England undertake a pre-departure travel test was introduced four weeks ago at the beginning of the Christmas travel period. It resulted in huge disruption for travellers.

Pre-departure tests for all UK arrivals from Tuesday

The reasoning given was the rapid spread of the omicron variant.

Recent research demonstrated that it had made little or no difference to the spread of omicron, while dealing yet another damaging blow to the UK’s travel industry.

At the same time the government has announced it is lifting the requirement to quarantine on arrival in England until a negative PCR test result is received. In its place is a return to taking a lateral flow test on or before Day 2. If this is positive, then a further PCR test must be taken.

Commenting on the news Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, said:

“The removal of pre-departure testing before travel to the UK and costly PCR testing upon arrival is welcome progress and a necessary step towards frictionless air travel for our customers. Travellers can now book with confidence and look forward to reconnecting with loved ones and business colleagues.

“Meanwhile customer demand will be boosted in a critical booking window for the travel industry and vital testing capacity can be reallocated where it is needed the most – in hospitals, schools and crucial national infrastructure.”

Meanwhile Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association, said:

“The Government’s announcement that travellers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test on return to the UK is extremely welcome news.

“The removal of pre-departure testing recognises that with the Omicron variant widespread throughout the UK these tests do not serve a useful purpose. Pre-departure tests not only add to cost and create inconvenience, they can also plant a seed of doubt among some travellers who wonder ‘what will happen if I test positive abroad?’ which can be a considerable disincentive to booking an overseas trip.

“We also welcome the move to change post-arrival Day 2 PCR tests to cheaper lateral flow tests, returning to the process in place in October 2021 before Omicron emerged and reducing testing costs for travellers.

“The two announcements are potentially very positive for the travel sector, but damage has already been done. We now hope to see confidence return as we enter what is usually the peak booking season for summer holidays.

“We would urge the Government to ensure greater stability in the international travel system, including avoiding similar disruption in future, to enable business to recover fully and to rebuild consumer confidence.”

And Andrew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer, American Express Global Business Travel, said:

“We’re pleased the government has kept to its word. Removing pre-departure testing for UK arrivals and self-isolation requirements is the right decision and a positive step forward for business travel recovery.

“Travel restrictions have come at a huge cost to the business travel sector, which is the engine room of our economy, contributing £220 billion a year to UK GDP pre-pandemic. Today’s announcement will help our industry recover, empower UK businesses to reach new markets and catalyse growth.”

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, commented:

“We welcome the news that pre-departure for the UK testing and arrival PCR tests are to be scrapped. These have caused unnecessary damage to the whole travel sector. We will now work with our members and partners to deliver safe international business travel so that the UK can once again be a truly global Britain.

“It is imperative that the Government backs-up these measures with a robust plan for future variants that does not mean closing our borders and strangling our sector once more.”

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