From 4am on 11th February, all travel tests are being scrapped for eligible vaccinated arrivals to the UK. The new relaxed rules were initially announced for England and Scotland, but Wales and Northern Ireland have since followed suit.
The revised travel rules follow the success of the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme. With vaccination levels high, the government is putting a more fair and proportionate travel system in place.
Inbound Fully Vaccinated UK Arrivals
From 11th February, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will no longer need to take a COVID-19 test before they travel or following their arrival; they’ll only need to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF). Furthermore, before the end of February, the PLF is set to be simplified and given an extra day for its completion.
To be eligible for the relaxed rules, travellers must prove they’ve received a complete course of a valid vaccine at least 14 days before travel. For non-UK travellers, the vaccine must be from an approved country or territory. As part of the new rules, the government recognises vaccine certificates from a further 16 places, including China and Mexico.
Under 18s will continue to be considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of travel to the UK.
Inbound Unvaccinated UK Arrivals
The UK is also scaling back travel restrictions for unvaccinated arrivals. From 11th February, they must:
- Show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the two days before travel
- Book and pay for a COVID-19 PCR test to be taken on or before day two following arrival
- Complete a PLF before travel
Unvaccinated travellers no longer need to isolate on arrival unless their day-two test is positive. Additionally, the day-eight PCR test has been abolished.
To make outbound travel easier, children aged 12-15 departing from the UK will be able to prove their vaccination status via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3rd February. This is intended to make it easier for children and families to travel to countries that require proof of vaccination to gain entry or access venues.
However, outbound travel rules remain dependent on the destination. Many countries will continue to refuse entry to those not fully vaccinated or require them to quarantine on arrival. Testing requirements also vary by country or territory. Travellers should consult the Department for Transport website to determine requirements before travelling.
Red List Countries
Although currently empty, the red list will remain in place as the first line of defence against coronavirus variants of concern. The government may choose to add destinations to the red list in the future. Red list rules apply whether a traveller is vaccinated or not. Current rules include hotel quarantine on arrival. However, the government is looking to replace this with other contingency measures like home isolation. These measures will be set out in the spring.
The government’s successful vaccination programme has largely enabled the relaxed travel restrictions. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said, ‘We made the right calls at the right time, and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout, it’s paying off—allowing us to safely remove nearly all COVID-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travellers’.
The government urges anyone who has yet to receive their third booster dose to come forward. It’s anticipated that many countries will begin to make receipt of a third booster vaccination mandatory for travel.
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