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England drops departure testing

Heathrow arrivals will no longer have to isolate until receiving a negative Covid test (image courtesy Heathrow Airports Group).

British prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that departure tests for vaccinated travellers coming to England are to be scrapped.

In addition, people will no longer have to isolate until they receive a negative test result on arrival into the country.

From 4am on Friday, fully vaccinated arrivals need only take a lateral flow test within the first 48 hours of arriving in England. A more expensive PCR test will be required only if the lateral flow test returns a positive result, and that test can be taken free-of-charge through Britain’s National Health Service.

Vaccinated travellers are currently required to pay for a private PCR test within 48 hours of arrival, as well as a test prior to departure.

According to Johnson, the pre-departure test “discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense.”

The beleaguered travel industry has been calling for departure tests to be scrapped as they are seen to be holding back recovery. According to airlines, the tests have little impact on case numbers in the United Kingdom; data released today suggest as many as one in 15 people had Covid in some parts of the country in the lead-up to the new year.

Airline trade bodies had argued that continuing with the current testing policies would be “financially disastrous” for the industry. According to Manchester Airports Group (MAG), passenger numbers fell by more than 30% following the introduction of tighter omicron travel restrictions.

“We are beyond the point where international travel restrictions can play a role in managing that peak (of infections),” said Tim Hawkins, chief of staff at MAG, in an interview with the BBC. “And if there is no benefit to it then we shouldn’t be doing it and we should take those measures out.”


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