Pre-departure Covid tests for travel to the UK may be dropped in the latest government review of restrictions, which will take place later today.
The Department for Transport has confirmed it will dish out its latest updates on inbound travel this afternoon or this evening, although it has yet to give exact timings.
Reports abound that one measure at least looks set to ease: that of demanding all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative coronavirus test (PCR or lateral flow) before being allowed to embark on their journey to the UK.
However, the requirement that all arrivals take a PCR test within two days of entering the country is expected to remain in place for now.
The reintroduction of pre-departure testing was in response to the threat of the omicron variant; now that it is prevalent in the UK, the travel industry has called for the government to lift onerous restrictions for inbound tourists.
Travel PR CEO Paul Charles has said the measures are already “out of date” and should be removed “urgently”.
Follow all the latest updates below.
- Government review to be announced later today
- Pre-departure tests for travel could be scrapped
- PM encourages Brits to get booster in order to travel
Omicron wobble at Ryanair
Despite continuing travel restrictions and onerous testing requirements, Ryanair carried five times as many passengers in December 2021 as in the corresponding month a year earlier.
But passenger concerns and travel restrictions brought in because of the Omicron variant resulted in the lowest numbers since August 2021.
Europe’s biggest budget airline operated more than 200 flights per day on average last month, carrying 9.5 million passengers.
The corresponding figure for December 2020 was 1.9 million.
The load factor improved year-on-year from 73 to 81 per cent – reducing the average number of empty seats from 51 to 34.
Simon Calder5 January 2022 10:24
Boris Johnson encourages Brits to get booster jab in order to travel
The prime minister has urged the public to take up their booster jab, warning that showing proof of one in order to travel will become “the norm”.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday 4 January, Boris Johnson encouraged wider take-up of the vaccine in general, emphasising that it will have an effect on people’s ability to travel abroad in the near future.
“It’s already the case that to travel to some countries you need a booster to be considered fully vaccinated,” he said.
Lucy Thackray5 January 2022 10:06
Could pre-departure tests be scrapped?
Pre-departure tests for travel were reintroduced by the UK government on 7 December.
This means that, currently, every traveller arriving into the country – regardless of vaccination status and where they’re travelling from – needs to present a negative result from a PCR or antigen test taken within the two days before their departure date.
However, leaks to the press suggest that the tests could be scrapped this week, following a government review of travel rules taking place later today.
Here’s everything we know so far:
Lucy Thackray5 January 2022 09:26
Hopes for Orlando reopening
As the 2022 edition of the Brit Guide to Orlando is published, the authors predict “a veritable flood of British visitors” in Florida this year – despite the tough Covid rules imposed by both the UK and the US.
UK travellers were banned from the US for 20 months, with arrivals allowed only from 8 November 2021.
Simon and Susan Veness say: “Having had to close in 2020, Orlando’s theme parks have led a remarkable recovery in recent months, blazing a trail for how to operate both safely and with a high degree of normality.”
Virgin Atlantic says Orlando is proving the most popular of all its US routes.
Walt Disney World marked its 50th anniversary on 1 October 2021, but plans an 18-month celebration of the half-century until early 2023.
Simon Calder5 January 2022 08:43
Hong Kong to ban UK flights
Hong Kong is suspending all flights from eight countries, including the UK, from Saturday 8 January due to surging Omicron cases.
The flight ban will be in place for two weeks, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in an announcement on Wednesday morning.
Inbound flights will also be banned from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Philippines and the US.
Helen Coffey5 January 2022 08:26
Department for Transport confirms a statement will be made today
The Department for Transport has confirmed to The Independent it will make a statement today on travel restrictions – but will not say when the announcement will be made.
At the start of November, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, removed the final seven countries from the “red list” requiring hotel quarantine, saying: “This is another step in the right direction for international travel with more good news today for passengers, businesses and the travel sector.”
By the end of the month, the red list was brought back due to fears about the spread of the Omicron variant. Flights from South Africa were cancelled temporarily and 11 African nations were placed on the red list.
For arrivals from anywhere else, mandatory self-isolation was imposed for all arrivals from abroad to the UK, with quarantine until they have a negative PCR test result. A week later pre-departure tests were made mandatory.
While the red list has now been emptied again, the travel restrictions remain in place – adding typically £100 to the cost of a trip and undermining consumer confidence.
Simon Calder5 January 2022 08:13
Aviation industry pleads for end to international travel tests
Airlines and airports are calling for the UK’s onerous and expensive testing rules to be revoked at an expected review later today.
MAG and Airlines UK, the industry body for carriers, have published new research that they commissioned which suggests that the removal of all testing requirements on international travel this month would not impact the spread of Omicron, now the dominant Covid-19 variant, in the UK.
“Pre-departure and ‘day two’ PCR testing introduced in late November and early December respectively had little to no impact on Omicron case rates in the UK, compared to if the travel policy of a single day two antigen test had stayed the same,” they say.
Simon Calder5 January 2022 07:55
Good morning, and welcome to the Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news and updates throughout the day.
Helen Coffey5 January 2022 07:48