Because the spread of Omicron across the UK is now so great that the tests are “essentially useless,” England is anticipated to eliminate the pre-departure COVID-19 test requirement for passengers on inbound flights to the nation.
“Pre-departure tests were brought in to try to slow the spread of Omicron and stop it coming into the UK,” a Whitehall source told The Times. “Now that Omicron is dominant in the UK and everywhere it reduces the argument for having it. We have other ways of slowing the spread through domestic testing.”
During a pre-Christmas review of the measures, more Covid hawkish ministers argued for stronger restrictions to combat the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Transport Grant Shapps is said to support the move to drop pre-departure testing, but was overruled by more Covid hawkish ministers who argued for stronger restrictions to combat the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Following the finding of the Omicron form in Southern Africa, England reinstated pre-departure travel testing after an on-again, off-again strategy.
The requirements were tightened to require practically all visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to get a negative COVID-19 test within two days of arrival.
Rapid antigen tests, which are less expensive and more accessible than gold-standard PCR tests, are also accepted for pre-departure testing.
However, unlike some other nations, England does not accept confirmation of recent COVID-19 infection recovery as a reason to avoid the pre-departure test requirement.
While pre-departure testing could be phased out as early as Wednesday, officials aren’t ready to abolish the requirement that travelers have a second PCR test within two days of arrival.
However, it is likely that the obligation to self-isolate while awaiting the results of the post-arrival exam would be removed.
The British aviation sector has slammed the testing requirements and advocated for both pre-departure and post-arrival testing to be phased out as soon as possible.
Pre-departure testing, according to airlines, decreases demand because customers don’t want to risk being stranded abroad if they test positive right before departure.
“Government has admitted that the measures introduced are disastrous for the travel sector, and the science says they aren’t now required,” commented Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the trade group Airlines UK.
“The Health Secretary says he wants to act quickly to remove unnecessary restrictions, and we implore him to make good on this by scrapping testing as soon as possible,” Alderslade, who represents airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet, said. “This is make or break for UK aviation”.
The devolved nations decide the travel testing laws for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, but any modifications in England are usually carried across.