Booster jabs likely to be needed to meet new requirements
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is set to scrap testing requirements for fully vaccinated people in time for the February half-term break, according to The Sunday Times.
An announcement of the relaxed testing regime is reportedly scheduled for 26 January, the day prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to lift plan B restrictions including working from home and masks on public transport and shops.
Under existing requirements, travellers must take a lateral flow test two days after they return from Britain, with a positive test resulting in 10 days of isolation which can be cut short with negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven. However, from Monday, the isolation period will be cut to five days for fully vaccinated people following an announcement from Sajid Javid this week.
A source close to Mr Shapps told The Sunday Times: “We are looking at removing all Covid tests for vaccinated travellers by the end of January, which is likely to coincide with the review of the plan B measures on 26 January.”
The change will be welcomed by the travel industry, which has been hard hit by testing rules. At least 600,000 passengers cancelled plans to fly from Heathrow in December due to the Omicron coronavirus strain and the introduction of tougher travel restrictions, the airport said.
The decision to stop pre-departure tests this month led to a near 200 per cent rise in easyJet bookings, while British Airways also reported that searches for holidays rose by nearly 40 per cent, with New York, Dubai and Barbados the most popular destinations.
Ministers are expected to update fully vaccinated status this spring adding the third jab to the definition, leaving those who shun the booster reliant on tests if they want to travel.
On Friday the UK reported its lowest daily number of new coronavirus cases in the past month. There were a total of 81,713 Covid – the lowest daily level since 15 December. Experts have said that the fall in reported new Covid cases looks promising, and that the spread of the Omicron variant is “stabilising”.
Coronavirus cases appear to be “plateauing” in parts of the UK including London, the south east, and the east of England, said Dr Susan Hopkins, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme cases were still relatively high, with one in 15 people in England infected and one in 20 elsewhere in the UK, but that there was a “slow down” in hospital admissions.
Prof Julian Hiscox, chairman in infection and global health at the University of Liverpool, told the BBC: “We’re almost there, it is now the beginning of the end, at least in the UK. I think life in 2022 will be almost back to before the pandemic.”