Covid tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving into the UK will be scrapped from 4am on Friday, February 11.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the date in the House of Commons this afternoon after prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed the change of policy would be introduced earlier on Monday.
Shapps told MPs: “From 4am on February 11, and in time for the half-term break, eligible, fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test.
“That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation at additional expense, all fully vaccinated people will now have to when they travel to the UK is to verify their status via a Passenger Locator Form.”
“We promised we wouldn’t keep these measures in place a day longer than necessary – and it’s obvious to me now that border testing, for vaccinated travellers, has outlived its usefulness.
“We are therefore scrapping all travel tests for vaccinated people, not only making travel easier but also saving about £100 per family on visits abroad, providing certainty to passengers, to carriers and the vital tourism sector for the spring and the summer seasons.”
The government considers fully vaccinated to mean two doses of an approved vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine.
Shapps also confirmed that UK arrivals who are not fully-vaccinated will no longer have to take a day eight test, or self-isolate. They must still take a PCR test by day two of arrival, and provide a negative pre-departure test before they travel to the UK.
“This is a proportionate system that moves us a step closer to normality while maintaining vital public health protections,” said Shapps.
Under 18s will continue to be treated as eligible fully-vaccinated passengers, which means they will not face any test at the UK border.
And from February 3, 12-15-year-olds in England will be able to prove their vaccination status via the NHS Covid pass for international travel.
“This should help families plan holidays for the February half-term,” the transport secretary added.
Shapps said the changes will help the UK “reconnect with key markets”, “boost the UK economy” and “help the hard-hit aviation sector”.
Vaccine certificates from 16 further nations, including China and Mexico, will also be accepted from 4am on February 11. Vaccines from more than 180 countries and territoires are now accepted at the UK border.
Shapps told the House that the government would also “simplify” the Passenger Locator Form, “making it quicker and easier to complete”.
From the end of February, arrivals will be given an extra day to fill out the form before they travel.
“I know this has been something of a challenge for many people who have been travelling over the last two years.”
He also confirmed that the red list, which currently has no countries on it, will remain in place – but that the government is looking to replace the ‘managed quarantine’ system known as hotel quarantine with “other contingency measures” which would include home isolation providing they can ensure “high levels of compliance”.
“In the meantime, our contingency measures remain available,” Shapps explained, but stressed they “will only be applied if we are particularly concerned about a variant of concern that poses a substantial risk – one which is even greater than Omicron.”
Looking forward, Shapps also announced: “Over time we intend to move away from blanket border measures to a more sophisticated and targeted global surveillance system.
“I’m also committing today to develop a full toolbox of contingency options to provide more certainty on how we will respond against future variants.
“The government will set out our strategy, including how we will deal with any new and future new strains of the virus next month, and we will continue to work with international partners and the World Health Organization to help all countries achieve a level of genomic sequencing to monitor variants.”
“Our future depends on us living with endemic Covid,” said Shapps, who reiterated government advice to “get jabbed as soon as possible” and “get boosted”.
Noting how transport secretaries from other countries have “made clear” to him they intend to require the booster jab for entry by this summer, he said: “My advice to anyone who wishes to travel this year, including in summer, is ‘don’t leave it too late to get your booster’.”
“Today we have one of the most open travel sectors in the world,” Shapps said, and claimed that’s “only because the government got the big calls right”.
However, shadow transport secretary, Labour’s Louise Haigh, said: “Too often, the government’s indecisive and chaotic approach to each wave of Covid infections has failed to keep the country safe, while causing uncertainty for the travelling public and for business.”