Major changes to Covid travel rules from today as testing is scrapped

Travel rules have relaxed for UK arrivals from 11 February (Photo: Getty Images)Travel rules have relaxed for UK arrivals from 11 February (Photo: Getty Images)
Travel rules have relaxed for UK arrivals from 11 February (Photo: Getty Images)

Coronavirus travel rules for people arriving in the UK from abroad are today being significantly relaxed.

The changes have sparked a huge surge in holiday bookings, with hundreds of thousands of Brits embarking on a half-term getaway now the simplified rules are in place.

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But what are the new travel rules? Here’s what you need to know.

What changes have been made?

As of 4am on Friday (11 February), fully vaccinated travellers are no longer required to take any Covid-19 tests after returning to the UK from abroad.

Under previous rules, arrivals had to take a post-arrival lateral flow test at a cost of around £20.

Requirements for unvaccinated arrivals have also been eased, meaning people no longer have to self-isolate when they return home, or take a day eight test.

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It was previously a requirement for people who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate on arrival and take a post-arrival PCR test on day two and day eight.

However, unvaccinated travellers will still need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken two days before returning to the UK, along with just one post-arrival PCR test.Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this is a more “proportionate system that moves us a step closer to normality while maintaining vital public health protections.”All UK arrivals will still need to complete a passenger locator form before returning to the UK, but the government has pledged to simplify this following complaints it is too complicated.

Mr Shapps said: “The UK has eased international travel measures for Covid-19 and now has one of the most free-flowing borders in the world – sending a clear message that we are open for business.”

Boost in holiday bookings

Travel trade organisation Abta said the easing of restrictions mark a “new chapter” for the industry’s recovery after seeing a huge boost in bookings for holidays abroad.

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Turkey, Egypt and Portugal are among the most popular short-haul destinations, while departures to the US state of Florida, Dubai, Mexico and the Caribbean have sold well for longer-haul holidays, according to Abta.

Ski resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland are also in demand.

Stansted Airport told Abta it is expecting around 200,000 passengers to depart between 11 and 18 February, while Gatwick is expecting 186,000 passengers and 160,000 are estimated to fly from Manchester.

Andrew Flintham, managing director for travel group Tui UK, said bookings for February half-term and Easter were now “comparable” to 2019.

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He said: “There remains a huge pent-up demand for international travel and we’ve seen strong and sustained booking patterns since the announcement as customers look to go abroad with ease and without the added expense of testing.”

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar said more than 125,000 people are booked to travel between the UK and the Continent during the school holidays thanks to the changes.

Eurostar chief commercial officer Francois Le Doze said: “With travel restrictions between the UK and France lifting, we are seeing a surge in leisure traffic both in the short term and looking further ahead to spring and early summer.

“We have as many passengers booked to travel in February half-term as we had across the whole of January which shows the potential for recovery and the appetite for travel between the UK and the Continent.”

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UK holidaymakers travelling abroad must still follow the coronavirus regulations that apply at their destination.

France requires arrivals to show proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours of departure, although there is speculation that will be dropped shortly, but popular destinations such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey do not require fully vaccinated UK holidaymakers to take a test before they arrive.

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