The British government expects to lift the last remaining pandemic-era travel restrictions at 4 a.m. on Friday, in what has been dubbed a “watershed moment” for passengers and the aviation industry.
The announcement came on the same day that British Airways and Heathrow International Airport (LHR) announced that face mask requirements would be abolished as of Wednesday.
“The UK is leading the world in removing all remaining COVID-19 travel restrictions, and today’s announcement is a testament to the hard work everyone in this country has put in place to roll out the vaccine and protect each other,” commented Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday.
“I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travelers ahead of the Easter holidays.”
Most pandemic-related travel restrictions in the United Kingdom had already been lifted, but passengers were still required to fill out a time-consuming online passenger locator form, and unvaccinated passengers were subject to additional requirements such as pre-departure and post-arrival testing.
The passenger locator form will no longer be necessary, and no passengers, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to take a COVID-19 test for travel beginning Friday morning.
Travel restrictions would be held in “reserve,” according to Shapps, and contingency measures might be introduced at any time if a new version emerged.
“In future, the government’s default approach will be to use the least stringent measures, if appropriate, to minimise the impact on travel as far as possible,” a statement from the Department for Transport attempted to reassure.
The UK began the pandemic with some of the latest travel restrictions in the world, but inbound passengers were eventually compelled to complete a period of self-isolation. The government declared it unlawful for most Britons to travel overseas in late 2021, and anyone arriving from nations on the so-called “Red List” was compelled to stay in hotel quarantine.
Those restrictions were gradually eased as the country’s immunization program took hold, and the majority of the rules were repealed in January.
The termination of travel restrictions was applauded by Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, who said it sent a “clear message to the world.”
“With travelers returning to the UK no longer burdened by unnecessary forms and testing requirements, we can now look forward to the return to pre-COVID normality throughout the travel experience,” Alderslade continued.