England is lifting Omicron restrictions today, ahead of a UK-wide easing of travel rule on February 11 © Getty Images
England is lifting Omicron restrictions today, ahead of a UK-wide easing of travel rule on February 11 © Getty Images

England lifts all Omicron restrictions as the UK prepares to ease travel rules

TripFalcon January 29, 2022

Last Update: 2024-01-03 22:00:51

The UK government has lifted the COVID-19 restrictions it imposed in England last month to deal with the Omicron variant.

As of January 26, COVID passports won't be needed to access hospitality venues and face masks will no longer be mandatory in public. However, people are encouraged to continue to wear masks in crowded enclosed spaces. 

The restrictions, otherwise known as England's "Plan B" response to the pandemic, were introduced in December to deal with rising Omicron cases. However, now that the booster campaign has been widely rolled out and cases has fallen sharply in recent weeks, the government is moving on to the next phase.

“Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A," health minister Sajid Javid said.

Meanwhile, traveling to the UK is set to become easier as transport secretary Grant Schapps confirmed on Monday that COVID-19 tests will no longer be required from vaccinated arrivals starting February 11.

Travelers currently have to prebook and prepay for a COVID-19 test on day two of their arrival, but that will be scrapped for those who are vaccinated. 

"We are removing ALL testing measures for eligible fully vaccinated arrivals to England," Schapps confirmed.

The governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will introduce similar measures.

The government is also allowing children between the ages of 12 and 15 to use the NHS app to show proof of vaccination more easily for travel. The measures come as travelers gear up for half-term break, a peak family-holiday season in February when schools are closed for a week.
"Scaling back restrictions before half term means a simpler travel experience for passengers, especially the fully vaccinated, and stability for the sector throughout 2022," Schapps said on Twitter.

The UK's travel rules will also changed for unvaccinated arrivals. They no longer have to self-isolate on arrival from February 11, or take a test on day eight. Instead they are required to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day two after arriving.

According to The Times, the government is also looking at changing the definition of "fully vaccinated" for travel to require a booster, although officials have said they want to make the change in line with other countries around the world. For now, fully vaccinated means double jabbed (or one shot for people who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

What are the current rules for travel to the UK?
The countries that make up the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) have agreed to put similar travel rules in place.

Until February 11, fully vaccinated travelers must do a rapid lateral flow (antigen) test on or before day two of their arrival. This day two test must be booked before passengers travel to the UK and they must include the test booking reference number in their passenger locator form. Only tests booked through a government-approved provider will be accepted. Passengers must cover the cost of the lateral flow test themselves.

If the results of the lateral flow test are positive, the traveler must take a PCR test free of charge. If that is positive, they must continue to self isolate for five days. If the result of that test is negative, they can stop self-isolating.

Non-vaccinated travelers can also visit the UK, but are subject to additional testing and quarantine requirements that vary depending on if they're traveling from a 'green' (low-risk) country or 'red' (high-risk) country. Currently there are no places on the red list.

Non-vaccinated travelers to the UK from green list countries are required to take a pre-departure test and book and pay for a day two test before arriving in the UK. The day two test must be a PCR test, a lateral flow result will not be accepted. Non-vaccinated arrivals must also quarantine at home or at their accommodation for 10 days and take a test on day eight.

If you have a trip to the UK booked, remember that you'll also need to prove that you’ve been fully vaccinated under a vaccination programme accepted by the UK. Visitors should continue to observe official precautions, and be sensitive to differing requirements and local attitudes across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Source: lonelyplanet