Pre-departure tests for people wanting to enter England 'to be axed'

Pre-departure Covid tests for travellers entering England ‘are likely to be axed when rules are reassessed this week’

  • Pre-departure tests for people wanting to enter England are set to be scrapped
  • Ministers will review the plan B measures and testing requirements this week
  • The pre-departure tests are seen as redundant now that Omicron is widespread
  • But day 2 PCR testing is expected to remain along with most other restrictions 

A travel requirement stipulating that people must take a pre-departure Covid test before arriving in England is likely to be dropped this week.

Ministers will review the plan B measures and travel testing requirements this week, and while many restrictions are expected to remain in place, a senior government source said pre-departure tests will soon be scrapped.

The source told The Times that ‘pre-departure tests were brought in to try to slow the spread of Omicron and stop it coming into the UK,’ but said the tests are largely redundant now that Omicron is widespread.

It comes as ministers declared yesterday there is ‘nothing’ in the data to suggest that further Covid restrictions will be needed in England despite rising cases.

Edward Argar, a minister at the Department of Health and Social Care, said he was ‘seeing nothing at the moment in the data right in front of me in the immediate situation that suggests a need for further restrictions’.

‘We need cool, calm heads,’ Argar said in an interview with Times Radio. ‘We need to look at the data and we need to do everything possible to avoid any restrictions.’ 

A travel requirement stipulating that people must take a pre-departure Covid test before arriving in England is likely to be dropped this week

Ministers will review the plan B measures and travel testing requirements this week, and while many restrictions are expected to remain in place, a senior government source said pre-departure tests will soon be scrapped

Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said that an uptake in testing showed that ‘the British public are taking sensible steps to keep themselves safe’.

‘We’ve seen significant behaviour change as a result of Plan B. That’s why there has been such a demand for testing in recent weeks,’ he said.

‘That, combined with the booster programme, is the key way as a country that we will avoid the need for further measures.’  

Currently, fully vaccinated travellers must take a pre-departure test, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive.

Though pre-departure flights will likely be dropped, day 2 PCR tests are expected to remain.

The ministers’ comments come as Britain’s Covid-19 infections increased by almost 15 per cent in the space of a week, but latest figures show the number of deaths has decreased by 23 per cent. 

Department of Health data revealed a further 137,583 Covid cases in its daily update yesterday, marking an increase of 17,660 on the figures given for Boxing Day, while figures on New Year’s Day showed a 33.4 per cent week-on-week increase in new cases.

Yesterday was the twelfth day in a row that cases have been above the 100,000 mark as the country moves out of the festive season, while in recent days the week-on-week increase in new cases has been as high as 72.5% (Dec. 29).

The Government advised that the data provided could be incomplete due to inconsistency in reporting over the holiday period, with today’s Covid figures for Scotland not available. Hospitalisation data is also not updated on Sundays. 

Currently, fully vaccinated travellers must take a pre-departure test, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test. Those who are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate for 10 days after they arrive

Coronavirus travel restrictions led to a 71 per cent reduction in the number of international flights to and from UK airports this year compared with pre-pandemic levels, new analysis shows.

Aviation analytics firm Cirium said around 406,060 international flights served UK airports during 2021 up to December 22, compared with 1,399,170 in the pre-pandemic period of 2019.

The recovery of international travel from the virus crisis has been limited due to testing and quarantine requirements, and fears of countries being added to the red list which involved mandatory hotel quarantine.

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