All remaining COVID travel measures, including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for arrivals, will end this week, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps says anyone arriving in the UK from 4am this Friday will not need to comply with any of the previous rules.
He tweeted: “These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.”
All remaining Covid travel measures, including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for all arrivals, will be stood down for travel to the UK from 4am on 18 March.
These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) March 14, 2022
This will mean holidaymakers will be able to enter the UK without any restrictions for the first time since the start of the pandemic in spring 2020.
At the moment, only fully vaccinated arrivals can enter the UK without the need for tests.
However, they must fill in a passenger locator form within 72 hours of travel, sharing their address, phone number, passport and flight details.
The forms were launched two years ago, when arrivals had to quarantine at home, to help check if travellers were following the rules.
The move comes as coronavirus infections were rising in all four UK nations for the first time since the end of January, with levels in Scotland already at a record high, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
The numbers for hospital patients with COVID were also rising, up 19% week-on-week in England, according to data a joint team from ZOE and King’s College London.
Hospital admissions with coronavirus in England remain well below the peaks reached during the Omicron and previous waves, while in Scotland the figure was close to the record peak seen in January last year.
Professor Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College London, shared his concern over the new travel announcement coming at a time when cases are still rising.
He told Sky News: “It is disappointing that as we hit record levels of COVID, Grant Shapps is saying it’s safe.
“People do still need to wear masks.”
“It is slightly ironic they’ve cancelled the Zoe app, it is like they just want to get rid of the data and move on.
“Other surveillance tools have been given the axe, meaning we will have less eyes on the ground and radar on the next variant.
“At least Zoe has agreed to fund us until we get more funding, it is going to keep going but we need some help longer term to do that.”
‘We will continue tracking potential new variants’
Sajid Javid also welcomed the news and said: “As we learn to live with COVID, we’re taking further steps to open up international travel once again ahead of the Easter holidays.
“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe.
“We can remove these final restrictions thanks to the incredible success of our vaccination programme which has seen more than eight out of 10 adults across the UK boosted.”
Heathrow Airport added wearing face masks will not be a requirement from Wednesday.
They said in a statement: “Effective from Wednesday 16 March, we’ll remove the requirement for wearing face coverings at the airport. We still strongly encourage both colleagues & passengers to wear them, particularly when they come into close contact with others, but this will no longer be mandatory.
“Passengers may still be required to wear a face covering onboard their flight and should check the airlines’ requirements before travelling.”
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK – the industry body representing UK carriers, welcomed the announcement by saying it sends the message that “the UK travel sector is back”.
He said: “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 normality throughout the travel experience.”
Following the announcement, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “The removal of all remaining UK travel restrictions, including the Passenger Locator Form, 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.
“With these barriers to travel removed, Britain is open for business and passengers can reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues once again.”