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UK to Lift All Travel Rules on Mar 18th, says Government

On Mar 15th, the United Kingdom’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that all remaining COVID-19 travel measures will be scrapped.

Currently, all travellers entering the UK must complete a passenger locator form before they arrive.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated are required to undergo a COVID-19 test before departure, fill in the form, and book and pay for a PCR test after arriving.

Grant Shapps confirmed in a tweet that these rules will be lifted at 4.00am on Mar 18th.

His announcement means that passengers who are not fully vaccinated will no longer need to take COVID-19 tests before and after arrival in the UK. All international travellers do not need to fill the passenger locator form anymore.

However, citizens who plan to travel overseas will still need to be aware of other countries’ entry rules.

“These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter,” Mr Shapps tweeted.

If any new COVID-19 strains appear in the future, the government said its default approach would be to use “the least-stringent measures” for restricting travel.

Its “Living with Covid” plan said new measures at the border would only be considered in “extreme circumstances”.

It said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) would closely monitor the prevalence and spread of Covid variants.

Scotland and Wales will be following England’s lead in removing all the remaining border restrictions.

However, Welsh’s Health Minister Eluned Morgan said she was doing so “reluctantly” – and was “extremely disappointed” that testing requirements and the passenger location form were dismissed.

The Scottish government said consistency across the four nations was agreed due to the “negative impact of non-alignment on the tourism industry”.

In February, the UK removed the need to undergo quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers.

The latest change was mostly welcomed by the travel industry, which has campaigned to remove all border restrictions so business can take full advantage of strong summer holiday demand.

The chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, said, “today’s announcement sends a clear message to the world – the UK travel sector is back.”

“With travellers returning to the UK no longer burdened by unnecessary forms and testing requirements, we can now look forward to the return to pre-COVID-19 normality throughout the travel experience.”

“The removal of all remaining UK travel restrictions is the final important step towards frictionless air travel, helping to further restore consumer confidence as we welcome more customers back to the skies this spring and summer,” said a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson.

“To uphold the experience of all travellers, it’s vital that the UK government works closely with industry to ensure the UK border is ready for increasing passengers, as international travel ramps up.”

Meanwhile, Eurostar’s chief executive Jacques Damas said the easing of restrictions would help the cross-Channel train operator’s recovery.

“We hope and expect to see the UK’s approach replicated across our other markets in the coming weeks,” Mr Damas said.

Challenges remain

Although COVID-19 restrictions recede, other headwinds for the aviation industry begin to appear.

The price of jet fuel has risen dramatically due to the high crude oil prices. This adds to cost pressures on airlines, although some have been protected by their hedging strategies, whereby they purchase fuel in advance at lower prices.

On Mar 11th, the chief executive of Heathrow airport, John Holland-Kaye, said the recovery of aviation remained “overshadowed by war and Covid uncertainty.”

Businesses will also continue to watch closely whether consumer’s confidence to book is affected by the war in Ukraine and rising household bills squeezing disposable incomes.

Air France-KLM and Ryanair have both recently warned that air fares will rise.