Britain simplified rules on Friday for international travel to England in a boost to the tourism industry, including scrapping the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take expensive COVID-19 tests on arrival from low-risk countries.
Under the new proposals, destinations will simply be ranked low or high risk, instead of red, amber and green. Eight countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives will be removed from the high risk red band from next Wednesday which requires passengers to quarantine in a hotel.
From Oct. 4, passengers arriving from low-risk countries will be permitted to take a cheaper lateral flow test, rather than the privately administered PCR lab tests now required. PCR tests for a family now can cost hundreds of pounds.
“Today’s changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.
The British government sets policy for England, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own rules.
Airlines and travel companies have argued for months that far-reaching changes were needed to the system or more job losses would follow the 100,000 already lost. They blamed testing and complicated rules for the slowness of a recovery in air travel over the summer.
The industry, already on its knees after 18 months of restrictions, is facing a cliff edge as a government furlough scheme ends later this month with winter approaching, when fewer people travel and businesses tend to make a loss.
Data shows that Britain’s travel recovery is lagging. UK flights were down 39% compared to pre-pandemic levels for the two weeks to early Sept. 6, while France, Spain and Italy were down between 24-28%, according to Eurocontrol.
Quarantine hotels, where people spend 11 nights in a designated facility at a cost of more than 2,000 pounds, are expected to remain in place for arrivals from high risk countries.
The British Airline Pilots Association said the government changes were good news for the industry. But workers in the sector would be among those most hurt by the end of the government’s furlough programme, which has paid salaries of staff sent home during the pandemic and expires at the end of this month.
“But there is still a way to go before UK aviation can truly take-off again and the industry remains precariously placed after a dire summer season,” BALPA Acting General Secretary Martin Chalk said. “With furlough ending it is going to be hard for cash strapped airlines to get back up and running as demand returns.”