Coronavirus testing for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England is being scrapped as the country also expands the list of countries whose vaccine certificates are approved for entry.
The new rules will be in effect by the start of the half-term school break, providing a boost to travel firms battered by the pandemic and families hoping for more hassle-free holidays.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the easing of travel restrictions on Monday while visiting a hospital and the details were confirmed in the House of Commons by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“Today I can confirm to the House that our international travel regime will also now be liberalised as part our efforts to ensure that 2022 is the year in which restrictions on travel, on lockdowns and limits on people's lives are firmly placed in the past,” Mr Shapps said.
“From 4am on February 11, and in time for the half-term break, eligible fully vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK will no longer have to take a post-arrival lateral flow test.
“That means that after months of pre-departure testing, post-arrival testing, self-isolation, additional expense, all that fully vaccinated people will now have to do, when they travel to the UK, is to verify their status via a passenger locator form.”
Fully vaccinated arrivals must currently pre-book and take a post-arrival test from a private supplier. This can be a lateral flow test, which typically costs around £19 ($25.7).
The easing of travel rules includes a simplified version of the passenger locator form and allows vaccine certificates from 16 extra nations to be used.
Under-18s will continue to be treated as eligible fully vaccinated passengers, which means they will not face any tests at the UK border.
From February 3, 12 to 15-year-olds will be able to prove their vaccination status via the digital NHS pass for international outbound travel.
“We promised we wouldn't keep these measures in place a day longer than was necessary and it's obvious to me now that border testing for vaccinated travellers has outlived its usefulness, and we're therefore scrapping all travel tests for vaccinated people,” Mr Shapps said.
“I can also confirm that from 4am on February 11, we'll recognise at the UK border vaccine certificates from 16 further nations. That will include countries like China and Mexico, bringing the vaccine recognition total to over 180 countries and territories worldwide,” he added.
Schools will break up on Friday, February 11 for a week's half-term.
Rules for travellers who are not fully vaccinated will also be eased.
Unvaccinated arrivals must currently take a pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, which are more expensive than lateral flow tests. They must also self-isolate for 10 days.
Under the relaxed system, they will still need to show a negative Covid-19 test taken two days before travel, take a post-arrival PCR test and complete the passenger locator form.
The announcement only applies to England, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recently implemented Westminster's changes to international travel rules.
The changes come after the bosses of major airlines wrote to the government demanding an end to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
In the letter, they asked that restriction-free travel be restored “at the very least” for those who are fully vaccinated.
The letter was signed by the heads of Ryanair, easyJet, Loganair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2, as well as the chief executives of holiday travel group Tui and trade body Airlines UK.