Thousands of travellers entering the UK today will benefit from the country’s less onerous restrictions, which came into play at 4am this morning.
From that time, fully vaccinated arrivals will have swerved the requirement to present a negative Covid test before departure.
They will still have to take a post-arrival PCR test on the day they enter the UK or the following two days – but they need not isolate while awaiting the result.
From Sunday at 4am, rules will ease even further, as double-jabbed travellers may swap this “day two” PCR test for a cheaper lateral flow.
The travel industry has welcomed the change to the travel testing rules, with a surge in holiday bookings expected in the coming weeks.
As many travel companies reported a surge in enquiries and website traffic, Kuoni’s CEO Derek Jones predicted that travel will be “90 per cent back before the end of spring”.
Follow all the latest updates below.
Pre-departure travel tests scrapped from today
Travel to the UK has become easier for those who are fully vaccinated from today, as the government has scrapped the need for pre-departure Covid tests.
From 4am, travellers who can prove they’ve been double jabbed need not show a negative test result before embarking on their journey to the UK.
They also need not quarantine while awaiting the result of their “day two” post-arrival coronavirus test.
However, all previous rules remain in place for arrivals who aren’t fully vaccinated.
Read our travel correspondent Simon Calder’s full explainer on the new rules here:
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog. We’ll be bringing you all the latest updates throughout the day.
Scotland eases restrictions in line with rest of UK
Scotland has become the last UK nation to relax travel restrictions, in line with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Michael Matheson said:
“Given the rapid spread of Omicron last year it was essential that we took immediate steps to protect public health in Scotland, particularly with regards to international travel.
“We still have significant concerns over Omicron, but we recognise that, now it is the most dominant strain in Scotland and across the UK, it is sensible to review the measures currently in place.
“We also fully understand the impact of the restrictions on staff and businesses in the travel and aviation sectors and these changes demonstrate our commitment not to keep measures in place any longer than necessary.
“However, people still need to be extremely careful when travelling and to remember that both our and other countries’ Covid-19 requirements can change at short notice as things can evolve very quickly.
“People should therefore ensure they have travel insurance and carefully check their booking terms and conditions, as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations for the country being visited.”
‘People need to be able to travel’ – Grant Shapps
The transport secretary Grant Shapps has emphasised that travel testing is no longer useful now that “widespread and worldwide”, saying the extra test requirement from December has “outlived its usefulness”.
“We have to get away from the idea that within the UK we’re a safe haven but the rest of the world is dangerous – that’s not the case,” the transport secretary told the BBC.
“We’re an international country, people need to be able to travel – we need to travel to be able to see family, do business, and keep the economy going.
“Seeing [that] Omicron is everywhere, Omicron testing has really outlived its usefulness, and we don’t keep things in place when there’s no point to having them there.”
France to ease travel restrictions for some Brits
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal confirmed on 5 January that it would soon become a “bit easier” to travel between the two nations.
A near-total ban was imposed on travellers from the UK last month in response to the growing threat of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Only French citizens and residents were allowed to enter the country from Britain, along with those who met the criteria for a slim handful of “compelling reasons”.
Read the full story:
Clarity needed on booster jabs for travel, says Travel Network Group CEO
Travel businesses are demanding clarity on if and when a booster jab will be needed for travel, says Gary Lewis, CEO of The Travel Network Group, which represents more than 1,200 travel businesses in the UK.
“The scrapping of pre-departure tests to secure entry into the UK and the option to take a cheaper day two lateral flow test is fantastic news for the travel industry but the government is seemingly giving with one hand and threatening to take away with the other – on Tuesday we heard the Prime Minister suggest that a Covid booster vaccine will be required for international travel,” said Lewis in a statement.
“Consumers will be delighted with the extra savings to be made from today’s announcements, and it will certainly give a confidence boost to those pondering a holiday booking this month, but the uncertainty of a triple-jab ‘travel passport’ is going to cause more confusion.
“We are in favour of vaccinations and we’re asking the government to give us clarity on whether travel will be completely ruled out for those who can’t have a booster jab for whatever reason.”
Simon Calder to answer your travel questions at 4pm
As holidaymakers get their heads around the latest changes to the UK’s travel rules, there’s a sense of optimism in the air for travel fans and industry figures alike.
Yet some may still be nervous about booking trips, with the possibility of new variants and red list additions still a reality – not to mention other countries’ restrictions on UK travellers.
If you need some reassurance, Simon Calder will be answering as many reader travel questions as he can later this afternoon.
Simon will be answering live on the article below between 4pm and 5pm today.
To submit your question, you must register to be able to write in the comments box under the article below. If you’re not already a member, click “sign up” in the comments section to leave your question.
Submit your question here:
The race is on: who will be first to benefit from easier UK travel rules?
The first passengers to benefit from the reversal of the UK’s Omicron travel testing rules are already en route for London Heathrow.
Qantas flight QF1 took off from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory at 11.45am GMT (9.15pm local time).
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 5.05am GMT on Friday – barely an hour after the relaxed travel testing rules take effect.
Read the full story:
Mobile networks delay post-Brexit rise in roaming charges
Vodafone and EE have announced that their roaming charges for Europe will not rise this week as planned.
Vodafone will now bring in the higher post-Brexit charges from the end of January, while EE has delayed its change in roaming charges until March.
Until Brexit, UK customers were able to stay on their home tariffs while travelling in European countries, but the EU trade deal made in December 2020 has allowed networks to reintroduce charges.
Vodafone said its delay was due to the need for further testing before roaming bundles are launched.
“We have pushed back the introduction of roaming charges to the end of January, giving time for further testing to ensure the best possible experience for customers purchasing our £1 per day bundles. Until then, customers will continue to be able to roam without charges,” said a Vodafone spokesperson.
Meanwhile EE attributed its delay to technical issues.
Every US cruise ship currently has Covid cases aboard
Every passenger cruise currently sailing in US waters has reported Covid-19 cases onboard.
All 92 ships have now met the threshold for investigation by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports the Washington Post.
More than 5,000 infections were recorded on passenger ships in the last two weeks of December 2021, compared to just 162 in the first two weeks of the same month.
“The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose,” the CDC warns in its official guidance.
Read the full story:
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