Whilst much of Europe is battling the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the U.K. (which is roughly 3-4 weeks ahead of central Europe in terms of the impact of the new variant) has decided to ease travel restrictions for people entering the country.
From 4am Friday 7 January, arrivals into the U.K. will be able to take a cheaper lateral flow test instead of a more expensive PCR test. Lateral tests can be bought for about £30 ($40) whilst PCR tests cost around £80 ($110), so the news will be a relief, particularly to large families traveling with children.
Currently, it is necessary to take a test on Day 2 of arriving into the U.K. and an additional bonus to the economy, is that arrivals do not need to isolate anymore until they receive their test results, as reported by The Telegraph (essentially because lateral flow tests provide almost instant results).
Anyone arriving into (or returning to) the U.K. must book a lateral flow test before arriving and then send a photo of the results of the in-home testing kits to the laboratory as proof of negativity. This was the procedure before the Omicron variant took hold.
It is understood that Grant Schapps, the U.K. Transport Minister was under pressure to scrap PCR testing, which was brought in to combat the surge in transmission due to the Omicron variant, because Omicron is now the dominant variant across the country.
If incoming travelers test positive, they must then take a PCR test and self-isolate for ten days.
The U.K. government also announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated will no longer be required to take a pre-departure test before arriving in the country–again, as of 4am Friday 7 January.
U.K. airports and operators were encouraged by the news with Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic saying “the removal of pre-departure testing before travel to the UK and costly PCR testing upon arrival is welcome progress and a necessary step towards frictionless air travel for our customers.” January is a key time for people to book holidays.
The country announced 194,747 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday 5 January 2022 with an increase of hospital admissions week-on-week of nearly 59%.
Scotland has also announced a change to ease travel restrictions and bring them in line with England.