UK Business and Economy Updates
Join myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about UK business and economics news.
Vaccinated travelers entering England will be subject to lighter test requirements as the UK government wants to bolster the struggling travel industry before state aid ends this month.
In a major overhaul of the current “traffic light” system in the United Kingdom of travel restrictions, ministers will announce later this week that people who have drunk twice will no longer have to do a Covid test before entering England, according to a government insider.
Under the new proposals, the current system will be simplified by merging the green and amber groups into a category of countries considered safe. A separate ‘no-go’ list of countries requires travelers to enter their hotel quarantine upon arrival in England.
The rule changes follow months of outrage from the tourism sector about the complicated travel arrangements of the UK, which deterred potential holidaymakers from coming to the country and discouraged outbound travel.
Travel companies have warned that the need for a lateral flow test before departure before departure to the UK was of concern to holidaymakers who were worried they would be stranded and forced to pay extra accommodation costs if they tested positive.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid indicated earlier this week that the more expensive PCR test required on the second and eighth day after arrival in the UK would also be abandoned in favor of cheaper fast tests for double-passenger passengers.
The health department has previously opposed the abolition of PCR tests, which cost on average around £ 75 per person, as they are used to detect variants of coronavirus entering the UK.
Unvaccinated travelers are still expected to isolate themselves and test themselves on their return to England in accordance with current rules, a person close to the case said.
Paul Charles, an adviser to several travel companies, said ministers wanted to restore confidence in travel and encourage businesses to bring staff back before the government’s end of this month.
He added that he, along with the announcement, expected about 20 countries to be removed from the 62 red list countries; Passengers returning from these countries are expected to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.
“We need [the current system] be changed to revive confidence in booking travel. “People are most worried about the test before departure,” he added.
“Getting rid of the pre-departure test is critical,” an executive said.
But the industry would struggle to recover until “the complexity and inconvenience” of vaccinated passenger test requirements was completely removed, they added.
Managers of leading aviation and travel agencies wrote to the prime minister this week to put an end to all tests for fully vaccinated travelers.
The travel industry blames the testing and traffic light system for the slowness of recovery seen during air travel during the summer.
Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tourism Association, said the UK’s £ 30bn incoming tourism sector had suffered an ‘almost total loss’ and had deteriorated other EU destinations in the recovery of passenger numbers.
Air bookings across mainland Europe have recovered twice as fast as in the UK, according to data from Gatwick Airport and the airport group ACI Europe.
Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe in 2019, became the tenth as competitors, including Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol, had passenger numbers recovered faster.
The Department of Transportation said travel policy decisions are guided by the protection of public health, but are regularly reviewed.