Covid: Pre-departure travel tests to be scrapped from England

Boris Johnson has announced the UK Government will be scrapping the pre-departure test for travellers returning to the UK.

The Prime Minister also confirmed they will be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival in England after travel firms called for them to be removed.

The measures were originally introduced following the identification of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in South Africa in November last year.

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He told the House of Commons: “Our balanced approach also means that where specific measures are no longer serving their purpose, they will be dropped. So, when the Omicron variant was first identified we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Government will be scrapping the pre-departure test for travellers returning to the UK

“But now, Omicron is so prevalent these measures have a limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing to pose significant cost to our travel industry.

“So I can announce that in England from 4am on Friday, we will be scrapping the pre-departure test, which discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring in significant extra expenses.

"We will also be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receiving a negative PCR, returning instead to the system we had in October last year where those arriving in England will need to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two and if positive, a further PCR test.”

No. 10 said it was “simply a sensible and proportionate step” to ease coronavirus testing rules while cases of Omicron were high.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s not a sensible use of the PCR capacity to require sort of a confirmatory test for when people are getting LFDs.

“When prevalence is extremely high as it is currently, LFDs, while already accurate, become extremely accurate given the specificity.

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“Obviously in some circumstances this may reduce the time in terms of how long it takes to get your positive test, as opposed to potentially sending away for a PCR test and waiting on the results, so that may have additional benefits.”

UK transport secretary Grant Shapps claimed the measures were only needed in response to the Omicron variant.

He 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.”

Mr Shapps said the change in measures would support “the safe reopening of international travel” and “a full review of travel measures by the end of January” will take place.

Karen Dee, head of the Airport Operators Association, said removing the restrictions was “welcome recognition that they no longer serve a purpose now Omicron is well-established in the UK".

Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said travel companies would be helped by the decision to scrap pre-departure Covid tests for travellers to England.

She said: “The easing of testing requirements for travel should provide a welcome boost to a sector that has been among the hardest hit throughout the pandemic.

“But urgent action is needed to address issues with the supply of lateral flow tests to make sure the workforce is not isolating unnecessarily. Too many businesses are telling us that their staff cannot get access.”

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