Vaccinated travellers can enter Britain without taking any Coronavirus tests starting Friday after the government scrapped one of the final restrictions imposed over the past two years in response to COVID-19.
British residents and visitors who have had at least two doses of an approved Coronavirus vaccine now only need to fill out a passenger locator form before travelling to the UK.
Unvaccinated people still have to take tests both before and after arriving but no longer need to self-isolate until they get a negative result.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK now has one of the most free-flowing borders in the world sending a clear message that we are open for business.
Airlines and other travel firms hailed the change as a lifeline after two years of severely constricted travel.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of travel group Tui UK, said there was a huge pent-up demand for international travel, and people were rushing to book getaways for the February school break and April’s Easter holiday.
Gatwick, London’s second-busiest airport, said that it plans next month to reopen the second of its two terminals, shuttered since June 2020. British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle urged other countries to follow Britain’s pragmatic approach.
But some scientists worry the government is moving too fast. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government lifted most domestic rules last month.
Face masks are no longer mandatory in most indoor spaces in England, vaccine passports for gaining entry to nightclubs and large-scale events were scrapped, as was the official advice to work from home.
Other parts of the UK Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have also lifted most restrictions. Johnson announced this week that he hopes to lift the final restriction mandatory self-isolation for people who test positive by the end of February as part of a plan to live long-term with COVID-19.
Officials have said the government plans to switch from legal restrictions to advisory measures and treat the Coronavirus more like the flu as it becomes endemic in the country.
Scientists expressed surprise at Johnson’s announcement.
Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at Kings College London, said it was more a political type of statement rather than a scientific one.