<p>Onerous and expensive testing rules are likely to stay for another month</p>

Onerous and expensive testing rules are likely to stay for another month

Travel restrictions won’t ease before end of January, say sources

‘The problem with these rules is they are sticky’ says aviation industry source

Lucy Thackray
Wednesday 29 December 2021 12:29

The UK government won’t ease travel restrictions until the end of January at the earliest, according to industry sources.

Ministers are set to review the latest travel rules and restrictions for British travellers on 5 January.

However, an anonymous aviation industry source told Travel Weekly that “sticky” extra testing rules were unlikely to be dropped before the end of the month.

“We don’t think they’ll ban international travel [at the 5 January review]. But it’s difficult to see them removing the test requirements,” they said.

“The problem with these rules is they are sticky.

“The pre-departure test – which is the one the industry hates most – is the test the medics most want. The Department of Health says the pre-departure tests are necessary to [ensure] we don’t import another variant.

“Let’s hope by the end of January or beginning of February we see some easement.”

A second airline source agreed, telling the industry title: “We’ll be pleasantly surprised if they remove the tests [on January 5]. We don’t expect it. It’s a minefield for international travel.”

The UK government tightened its rules for travellers in December, after early cases of the Omicron variant were detected, amid worries it was more transmissible and potentially resistant to vaccines.

Ministers reintroduced mandatory PCR testing for vaccinated travellers - who had briefly been able to use cheaper lateral flow tests on arrival back in the UK - earlier this month.

They also reintroduced the “pre-departure” travel test for all arrivals into the UK, a move which many travel industry figures fear is putting the public off booking travel, and now require fully vaccinated travellers to self-isolate while they wait to receive their “day two” test results after arrival.

“As we learn more about the Omicron variant, we will review these temporary measures to ensure they continue to be proportionate and necessary to protect public health,” said transport secretary Grant Shapps at the time.

The UK government had also initially added 11 African nations to the formerly-empty red list for travel, imposing expensive 10-day hotel quarantine on arrivals from those countries.

But these measures were dropped on 15 December when ministers accepted that cases of the Omicron variant were already spreading within the community in the UK, rendering travel bans on certain countries pointless.

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