Remaining UK Covid travel rules set to be lifted

Controversial passenger locator form is expected to be ditched as travel industry seeks further stimulus

Passengers at Heathrow Airport will soon be saying goodbye to Covid restrictions, according to reports. PA
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The UK is set to scrap all remaining travel restrictions by the end of March, a decision which will delight industry chiefs who have been pressing for their removal.

Under current UK travel rules, unvaccinated travellers over the age of 18 arriving in the UK are required to self-isolate until they receive the result of a PCR test taken within the first two days.

In addition, all travellers must fill in a digital passenger locator form at least 48 hours before arrival.

Neither requirement is onerous, particular when compared to the extensive Covid travel rules that had been in place for the majority of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, industry figures say that even the remnants of this system are anachronistic and exceedingly bureaucratic.

The digital passenger locator form has been recently simplified but is still “much more complex than that used by many other countries”, according to UK travel association ABTA.

“Given the relaxation of domestic Covid measures, we believe all Covid-related restrictions on international travel should be [axed] unless they serve a clear public health objective,” ABTA said.

Ryanair chief Michael O' Leary has been typically trenchant in his dismissal of the form.

“It’s a shambles,” he said. " Nobody collects them, nobody checks them or follows up on them.”

The Conservative party chairman of the Transport Select Committee, Huw Merriman, agrees.

“We don’t need all these questions domestically,” he told a Business Travel Association conference last week. “Why have we all these questions for international travel?”

Even UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is no fan of the form. Before its simplification, he dismissed it as “ridiculously complicated".

Reports suggest he is intends to abolish the measures by the beginning of April, in time for the Easter holidays.

Even if the measures are scrapped, it is not clear how much of an effect it will have on the numbers travelling.

Britain’s Heathrow Airport on Friday said passenger numbers in February remained about 50 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels, and the barriers to travel are far greater than a simple online form.

Heathrow officials said “headwinds from higher fuel prices, longer flight times to destinations impacted by airspace closures, concerns from US travellers over war in Europe and the likelihood of new [Covid-19] 'variants of concern'” are all playing a part in suppressing demand.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 12:08 PM
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