All remaining coronavirus travel measures including passenger locator forms will end on Friday in a move to make foreign holidays easier even as coronavirus cases rise in the UK.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that the changes, which also include the requirement for unvaccinated people to be tested for Covid-19 before entering the UK, will “mean greater freedom in time for Easter”.
After a meeting with senior ministers, he said the measures will end for travel to the UK from 4am on Friday under the Government’s plans for “living with Covid”.
As airlines welcomed the announcement, Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted the Government would continue to monitor and track new variants.
“As we learn to live with Covid, we’re taking further steps to open up international travel once again ahead of the Easter holidays,” he said.
“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe.
“We can remove these final restrictions thanks to the incredible success of our vaccination programme which has seen more than eight out of 10 adults across the UK boosted.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) said a “range of contingency measures” will be kept in reserve so ministers can “take swift and proportionate action” if any concerning new variants of coronavirus emerge.
But it was unclear what these were and the department said they would “only be implemented in extreme circumstances”.
The move came as coronavirus infections were rising in all four UK nations for the first time since the end of January, with levels in Scotland already at a record high, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics.
The numbers for hospital patients with Covid were also rising, up 19% week-on-week in England.
Hospital admissions with coronavirus in England remain well below the peaks reached during Omicron and previous waves, while in Scotland the figure was close to the record peak seen in January last year.
The time-consuming passenger locator forms require people to fill in travel details, their address in the UK and vaccination status.
The locator forms, currently required by all arrivals from outside Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of man, have been used to track people after outbreaks of the virus.
Mr Shapps said: “These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK – the industry body representing UK carriers – welcomed the announcement, saying it sends the message that “the UK travel sector is back”.
“With travellers returning to the UK no longer burdened by unnecessary forms and testing requirements, we can now look forward to the return to pre-Covid normality throughout the travel experience,” he added.
“We’re grateful for the timing of the announcement as we prepare to welcome back passengers this Easter and summer, for which we know there is huge pent-up demand, and for the UK’s leadership in being the first major aviation market to remove all remaining restrictions.”
Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive, said: “This welcome move by the UK Government marks a return to truly restriction-free flying to and from the UK, giving an extra boost to travel this Easter.”
The DfT also said that from the end of March the UK will fully end its hotel quarantine capacity, with there currently being no red list countries requiring their use.
Meanwhile, Heathrow said passengers would no longer be required to wear masks at the airport from Wednesday, though they will continue to be strongly recommended.