The British government has announced that it will do away with Covid-19 testing requirements for double-vaccinated travellers arriving in England or Scotland. The modified guidelines will come in place at 4 am UK time on February 11.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conveyed the decision in a speech at the House of Commons. “It is obvious to me that border tests for vaccinated travellers have outlived their usefulness, and we’re therefore scrapping all travel tests for vaccinated people, not only making travel much easier but also, of course, saving about £100 per family on visits abroad,” he said.
Shapps also declared that Britain is now open for business. The easing of rules will take effect just in time to facilitate international travel during the country’s half-term school holidays. It also comes as PM Boris Johnson is under fire for his many lockdown parties and amidst accusations of racial bias.
What are the new guidelines?
The new rules say that fully vaccinated passengers will no longer be required to undergo testing. Instead, they will be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form. The form, which the government is set to simplify, will require the traveller’s basic details like travel history and vaccination status, among others. It can be submitted 2-3 days before travel.
Currently, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK are required to take a rapid lateral flow test (LFT) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test (with an exception for kids aged 4 or below) from private service providers. While LFT tests cost around £20, PCR tests cost around £75 on average.
“That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation, additional expense, all that fully vaccinated people will now have to do, when they travel to the UK, is to verify their status via a passenger locator form,” said Shapps, according to a Guardian report.
What about others?
Those who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated will need to take a test before departure. They will also need to take a PCR test on or before day 2 of arrival in the UK. This means that the mandatory quarantine has been lifted, and will be required only if they test positive.
While the UK will continue to treat all under-18s as double-vaccinated passengers, children between 12 to 15 years of age in England can use a Covid pass as proof of vaccination from February 3 while travelling outside the country. They can also get a “proof of prior infection” as a digital document issued by the National Health Service if required.
As a part of easing restrictions, the UK government has said that it will recognise vaccine certificates from an additional 16 countries, taking the total number of approved countries/territories to 180. This includes Algeria, Cape Verde, China, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Mexico, São Tomé and Principe, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Turkmenistan.
In an official statement, the government hinted at the further loosening of guidelines. “While the red list will continue to remain in place as our first line of defence against future variants of concern arriving from abroad, the government is looking to replace the hotel quarantine policy with other contingency measures including home isolation and further details will be set out on this later in the spring,” it said.
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