All testing measures for eligible fully vaccinated travelers arriving in the UK will be removed from 4am on 11 February, as the government goes one step further to reopen the travel sector.
The changes announced today (24 January 2022) mean that the UK has one of the most free-flowing borders across Europe in addition to having the most open economy and society.
The simplification of travel rules comes just before half term, providing welcome news for families looking to travel abroad during the school holidays, as well as an extra boost for the tourism industry.
Thanks to the success of the UK's vaccine and booster rollout, the government is now able to reduce the number of travel restrictions, ensuring there is a more proportionate system in place for passengers. Before the end of February, eligible fully vaccinated travelers will only need to fill out the passenger locator form (PLF), which will be simplified, confirming their vaccination status, travel history and contact details, and people will have an extra day to fill it out before traveling.
The framework set out today is intended to be one that will last. It aims to provide stability for travelers and the travel industry throughout 2022, ensuring the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do business. Meanwhile, friends and families can make the most of their global connections, while saving around £100 for the average family with the removal of testing.
Children aged 12-15 in England will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3 February for outbound travel, making it easier for children and families to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination or prior infection to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
It will also enable families to plan holidays for February half term with greater confidence, as parents can be reassured they will quickly be able to evidence their child's vaccination status or proof of prior infection for outbound travel and meet the requirements of different countries more easily.
For inward travel, all under-18s regardless of their individual vaccination status will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:
We made the right calls at the right time and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout it's paying off - allowing us to safely remove nearly all COVID-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers.
We already have one of the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and because of the changes today we now have a travel sector to match it.
This final step in our stable and safe full return to international travel is a major boost for UK tourism, setting Britain free ahead of the crucial half term and spring holiday season."
One of the first western European countries to lift isolation requirements for all arrivals who do not qualify as fully vaccinated, the UK will also scale back travel restrictions for unvaccinated arrivals. From 11 February, individuals who are not fully vaccinated will only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 after they arrive in the UK, as well as filling out the simplified PLF. They will not need to self-isolate on arrival, and will only need to do so on receipt of a positive result.
We will be further reconnecting with key global markets, and from 4am on 11 February, we will recognise vaccine certificates from 16 further countries and territories at the border, including China and Mexico. This will bring the total list to over 180 countries and territories worldwide, and the full list of eligible countries and territories can be found on gov.uk.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:
We have entered a new chapter in our fight against COVID-19 and we're taking a balanced approach as we learn to live with the virus.
Thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, now is the right time to take this additional step towards opening up international travel once again.
Extending the NHS COVID Pass to children aged 12-15 in England will also make the outward journey easier for families and I am delighted we have taken this step in time for February half term."
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.
Throughout the pandemic, the government has taken a balanced approach to COVID-19 measures, considering the freedoms of individuals together with public health concerns. Omicron is now the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the UK and around the world and the latest data indicates that vaccinated individuals are less likely to have severe outcomes if they catch Omicron, in comparison with Delta. Taken with the success of the booster programme, now is the right time to take proportionate steps to further remove travel restrictions.
Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said:
This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc. Nearly two years since the initial Covid restrictions were introduced, today's announcement brings international travel towards near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy. It will offer further reassurance to those planning to travel, both overseas and into the UK, and demonstrates again that following the success of the vaccine programme, the UK can lead the world in our recovery from the pandemic.
With the all-important half-term week approaching, passengers should now get booking, and airlines look forward to using the connectivity they're proud to facilitate to turbo-charge the economic recovery for all of the UK."
Charlie Cornish, Group CEO of MAG, said:
This important announcement is excellent news for our sector's recovery.
This change will be welcomed by the millions of vaccinated people who are desperate to travel and will now be able to do so - restriction-free - for the first time in more than a year.
With Britain reopened for business, we're looking forward to helping people across the country get back to visiting exciting new places, finding fresh trading opportunities overseas, and travelling to see friends and loved ones again."
UK Chamber of Shipping Chief Executive Sarah Treseder said:
We are delighted to see the government has eased restrictions, bringing travel back towards near normality for fully-vaccinated people. Millions of passengers enjoy travelling by sea each year and although it will take time for confidence to fully return to normal, this landmark decision will help the tourism and travel sector at a vitally important time for the industry."