UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says arrivals in England will no longer need to take a pre-departure test and could take a rapid lateral flow test rather than a PCR test once they arrive.
“In England, from 4am on Friday, we will be scrapping a pre-departure test which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense,” Johnson told MPs on Wednesday.
“We will also be lifting the requirement to self isolate on arrival until receipt of a negative PCR,” he said, adding that arrivals would instead need to do a rapid lateral flow test, and then only take a PCR if the lateral flow was positive.
Johnson said the Omicron variant is now so prevalent in the United Kingdom that the old measures were having limited impact on the spread of the disease.
The rules will revert to the system in place in October, with travellers required to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after their arrival.
The measures were originally introduced following the identification of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in South Africa last November.
The announcement on Wednesday – which covers those passengers who are fully vaccinated or are under the age of 18 – was broadly welcomed by the travel industry, which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a “massive boost” for the sector at a “critical” time of the year.
“People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed,” he said.
“Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”
National Health Service lateral flow tests, which are available for free in the UK, cannot be used for international travel and the tests must be brought from a private provider.
with reporting from PA