The removal of the much-hated and frequently sleazy testing regimen for vaccinated travelers will give a boost for airlines, holiday and tourism companies not just in the UK, but across Europe. It's time to catch up.
The British government will on Friday consider easing England’s Covid-19 rules for international travel, a late-season boost for airlines, holiday and tourism companies which say they will not survive another winter of onerous rules and red tape.
While Europe has relaxed travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated, expensive Covid-19 testing requirements remain in place for fully vaccinated arrivals into Britain, preventing a travel recovery as the tougher winter period nears.
But a rule change could be announced later on Friday.
“The Covid sub-committee of cabinet that decides these things will be considering that probably later today,” Agriculture Secretary George Eustice told Sky News.
Airports, airlines and travel companies have warned the government of more job losses if it does not scrap the private testing and so-called traffic light system which ranks destinations as green, amber and red.
“There are hundreds of businesses out there who will not survive this winter unless changes are made,” TUI UK managing director Andrew Flintham told Sky News on Friday.
According to reports, the government will remove the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a lateral flow test before departing their destination and a costly PCR test on their return into Britain, which can add hundreds of pounds per person to a trip.
Ministers will also simplify the destination categories into either low or high risk, scrapping amber, reported the Times newspaper, with many countries, including popular destination Turkey, expected to be removed from the high risk red list.
Flintham said any new system would be better than the current set-up.
“It will improve if we move anywhere away from the draconian measures that we really are using at the moment,” he said.
Data shows that Britain’s recovery is lagging. UK flights were down 39 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels for the two weeks to early Sept. 6, while France, Spain and Italy were down between 24-28 percent, according to Eurocontrol.
On Britain’s red list there are currently 62 countries, a designation that requires 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of more than $2,757. Quarantine hotels are expected to remain in place for red list arrivals.
Any change to the travel rules will apply to England, but devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could later follow suit. More than 135,000 people in Britain have died in the pandemic.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas, Guy Faulconbridge and Sarah Young, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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Photo credit: A passenger walking by signs for Covid testing centers at Heathrow Airport.