Vaccinated travelers will be able to enter Britain without needing to take a COVID-19 test from Friday, after the government lifted one of the last restrictions imposed in the past two years in response to the coronavirus pandemic. .
British residents and visitors who have at least two doses of one of the country’s approved COVID-19 vaccines will only need to fill out a locator form before they travel. Those who are not vaccinated must be tested before and after their arrival in the country, but will not have to isolate themselves until they receive a negative result.
Britain “now has one of the most fluid borders in the world … sending a clear message that we are open for business,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
Airlines and other travel companies hailed the rule change as a lifeline after two years of harsh restrictions. Andrew Flintham, managing director of travel group Tui UK, said there was “huge pent-up demand for international travel” and people were rushing to book breaks for the February school break and April Easter break.
Gatwick, London ‘s second airport, said it will reopen the second of its two terminals, closed since June 2020, next month.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle urged other nations to follow the “pragmatic approach” of British authorities.
But some scientists worried that the government may be moving too quickly. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ‘s Conservative government lifted most national restrictions last month. The mask is no longer mandatory in most closed spaces in England, the vaccination passport is no longer required to enter nightlife venues and crowded events and the official recommendation to work from home was withdrawn. The other parts of the country — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have also removed most measures.
Johnson announced this week that he hopes to lift the last restriction — the mandatory quarantine for those who test positive — by the end of February as part of a long-term plan to live with COVID-19. Officials said the government plans to change legal restrictions to advised measures and treat the coronavirus like the flu as it becomes endemic in the country.
Scientists were surprised by Johnson’s announcement. Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, said it was “more of a political statement than a scientific one.”
Britain has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe after Russia, with more than 159,000 officially confirmed deaths. The country has seen a decline in both infections and hospitalizations since the peak of the wave driven by the omicron variant in early January.
Authorities credited the booster vaccination campaign with preventing omicron cases from overwhelming the hospital system. 84.6% of the British population over the age of 12 have received two doses of the vaccine, with almost two-thirds having the third.
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