Travel ban: Epidemiologist says ‘closing borders does not work’
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Britons on holidays overseas will be faced with simplified rules from Friday at 4am. The Government has announced pre-departure tests will be scrapped, and it’s not the only change coming.
Grant Shapps tweeted: “We’re removing the temporary extra testing measures we introduced last year at the border to slow cases of Omicron coming to the UK.
“Now Omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.”
He then explained the testing rules will be relaxed.
He wrote: “Fully vaxxed passengers & under 18s will NO LONGER need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England if arriving after 4am Fri 7 Jan.
“Fully vaxxed passengers & under 18s will NO LONGER need to self-isolate whilst waiting for post-arrival results if arriving after 4am Friday 7 Jan.
“After arrival in England, all fully vaxxed people & under 18s will now only need to take a LATERAL FLOW test (instead of a PCR test) if they arrive after 4am Sunday 9 Jan.”
However, he also warned: “Free NHS lateral flow tests CANNOT be used for international travel, to protect NHS capacity.”
He then said: “If your post-arrival lateral flow test comes out positive, you must self-isolate & take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.”
Grant Shapps ended his thread of tweets with: “By reducing testing requirements for fully vaxxed passengers to just a lateral flow post-arrival, we’re supporting the safe reopening of international travel.
“We’ll do a full review of travel measures by the end of Jan to ensure a stable system is in place for 2022.”
The news was welcomed by the industry, with Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, saying: “The relaxation of travel restrictions is of course a positive for the travel industry.
“Scrapping the pre-departure test and replacing subsequent PCR day two test and therefore self-isolation on arrival back into the UK with a cheaper and effective lateral flow test will help to boost confidence at what is traditionally the busiest booking period of the year.”
She warned, however, that “travel will remain ever complex this year”.
She said: “If the consumer can rely on less confusing government intervention, a continuation of a more flexible approach from travel suppliers, and the expertise of a human travel agent to help guide them through the booking process from take-off to landing, I am hopeful we will see the industry start to finally bounce back.”
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association, said: “The Government’s announcement that travellers will no longer have to take a pre-departure test on return to the UK is extremely welcome news.
“The removal of pre-departure testing recognises that with the Omicron variant widespread throughout the UK these tests do not serve a useful purpose.
“Pre-departure tests not only add to cost and create inconvenience, they can also plant a seed of doubt among some travellers who wonder ‘what will happen if I test positive abroad?’ which can be a considerable disincentive to booking an overseas trip.
“We also welcome the move to change post-arrival Day 2 PCR tests to cheaper lateral flow tests, returning to the process in place in October 2021 before Omicron emerged and reducing testing costs for travellers.”
Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic said: “With the Omicron variant now representing 90 percent of Covid-19 cases in the UK, there is no justification for pre-departure test before travel to the UK, nor costly PCR testing upon arrival.
“Two years into the pandemic, the travel industry has demonstrated how international travel can operate safely, taking full advantage of our world leading vaccine rollout.
“Unnecessary testing requirements will only result in confusion for millions, damaging customer confidence and economic recovery. We urge UK Government to act now and lead the way for the return of travel at scale.”
MAG CEO Charlie Cornish and Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade said: “The Health Secretary rightly acknowledged as early as 8 December that the value of any form of restrictions was significantly reduced once Omicron became dominant in the UK.
“Travel restrictions come at huge cost to the travel industry, and to the UK economy as a whole, placing jobs at risk and holding back the recovery of one of our most important sectors. It is therefore vital they do not remain in place a day longer than is necessary.”
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