All remaining Covid travel measures to be axed even as cases continue to rise
By Nina Lloyd, PA
Tourism companies have hailed the “final game-changer” as all remaining Covid travel measures are axed even as cases continue to rise in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said lifting the requirements, which include pre-travel tests for unvaccinated people, would allow “greater freedom in time for Easter” to go abroad.
After a meeting with senior ministers on Monday, he confirmed the measures were ending for travel to the UK from 4am on Friday under the UK Government’s plans for “living with Covid”.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said a “range of contingency measures” would be kept in reserve so ministers could take “swift and proportionate action” in the face of potential new variants.
The department said they would “only be implemented in extreme circumstances”, but it was understood the measures would include targeted testing from a country that has seen a new strain emerge.
Demand for foreign holidays has jumped since the start of the year and there is a newfound “air of positivity” within the sector, airline executives said in response to the move.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni, a tourism company, said bookings had surged in recent months for destinations including the Maldives, Mauritius, the Caribbean and Europe.
“The removal of all travel restrictions is the final game-changer – people can now go on holiday or visit family and friends overseas without all of the stress that comes with testing before they return home,” he said.
“Travel has been in turmoil for two years but now it’s back.”
Mr Jones branded passenger locator forms used to track people after outbreaks of the virus, which are among the measures to axed on Friday, “unpopular and ineffective”.
The time-consuming forms require people to fill in travel details, their address in the UK and vaccination status.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines, said “the time to return to the skies is now” as travellers prepare for Easter and summer.
“People want to go away, and there is a real air of positivity within the sector now,” he said.
Aviation minister Robert Courts said: “Everything we have worked for – every jab, every test, and the sacrifices made by the whole country means that finally, nearly two years on, we can all travel without bureaucratic restrictions.”
He added that he “hope(d) to never see a day” where the restrictions were reintroduced.
The Transport Secretary said: “I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travellers ahead of the Easter holidays.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government would continue to monitor potential new variants but that the final restrictions could now be lifted due to the success of the vaccination programme.
The move comes as coronavirus infections are rising in all four UK nations for the first time since the end of January, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
The numbers for hospital patients with Covid were also rising, up 19% week-on-week in England.
A further 91,345 confirmed cases were reported on Wednesday.