Business travel leaders have welcomed news that Covid restrictions for arrivals into England will be relaxed from Friday (January 7).
Fully-vaccinated passengers and under 18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England if arriving after 4am on that date.
In addition, they will no longer have to self-isolate while waiting for post-arrival results and anyone arriving after 4am on January 9 can take a day 2 lateral flow test, instead of a PCR test.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, said the extra testing measures are being removed because they are no longer proportionate because Omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK.
He stressed that free NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel, to protect NHS capacity, but said if a post-arrival lateral flow test comes out positive, travellers can take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.
Responding to the announcement, Scott Davies, CEO ITM, said: “The UK government’s decision to end pre-arrival tests for passengers coming into the UK is a sensible and welcome step to remove ostensibly needless friction from the traveller experience.
“Business travel is an essential economic enabler and UK companies badly need to get their people travelling to the right places again to strengthen, and indeed rebuild, their businesses. Anything that simplifies the already complicated travel process and challenges for travel buyers is a plus.
“Testing costs and complexities were having to be factored into overall business trip costs and reasons for travel, both of which are already under scrutiny by organisations as they plan resuming business travel and start to lift international travel bans.”
Andrew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer, American Express Global Business Travel, said: “We’re pleased the government has kept to its word.
“Removing pre-departure testing for UK arrivals and self-isolation requirements is the right decision and a positive step forward for business travel recovery.
“Travel restrictions have come at a huge cost to the business travel sector, which is the engine room of our economy, contributing £220 billion a year to UK GDP pre-pandemic.”
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said: “We welcome the news that pre-departure for the UK testing and arrival PCR tests are to be scrapped. These have caused unnecessary damage to the whole travel sector.
“We will now work with our members and partners to deliver safe international business travel so that the UK can once again be a truly global Britain.
“It is imperative that the Government backs-up these measures with a robust plan for future variants that does not mean closing our borders and strangling our sector once more.”
MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said: “The removal of these temporary measures is important recognition that travel restrictions should not remain in place if they no longer help prevent the spread of the virus.
“By removing barriers to travel in what is a critical period for forward-booking, passengers, airports, airlines and business across the UK can now plan ahead with confidence.
“We look forward to working with Government on a roadmap for the removal of all remaining restrictions, in order to help our prized aviation sector enjoy a full recovery.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, CEO at Advantage Travel Partnership, added: “Confidence is crucial now. In order to recover from the decimating impact the pandemic has had on the travel industry and people we must start to see a consistent approach from Government in terms of the future relaxation of rules given our highly-vaccinated population.”