The UK government said on Monday it would scrap its remaining measures on international travel this week, noting it was one of the first major economies to do so and calling the move a “historic moment”.
After nearly two years, Britain has been at the forefront of efforts to end coronavirus pandemic restrictions and shift to a strategy of living with the virus, relying on vaccines to provide protection.
“These changes are possible thanks to our deployment of vaccines,” said Grant Shapps, Britain’s Transport Secretary, said on Twitter“and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.”
According to the UK government, around 86% of the population received a second dose of vaccine and 67% a booster or third dose.
On February 24, the government stopped legally requiring people in England to self-isolate if they tested positive for the virus; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set health measures separately, have also decided to ease restrictions. Since then, cases have increased, but the number of deaths has remained stable, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
From 4 a.m. on Friday, travelers will no longer be required to complete a passenger locator form with details of their trip and vaccination status. Those who are not fully vaccinated will no longer be required to get tested to enter the country.
“Today’s announcement sends a clear message to the world: the UK travel industry is back,” Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, a trade group, said in a statement. “We can now look forward to a return to pre-Covid normalcy.”
Last month, Iceland announced it would drop coronavirus requirements at its border, regardless of the traveler’s vaccination status. In Ireland, from March 6, incoming passengers were no longer required to show proof of their vaccination status or complete a passenger locator form.
London Heathrow Airport said that from Wednesday masks would no longer be compulsory in airport terminals, stations or office buildings. Masks are already no longer compulsory indoors in England, but the airport said in a statement it was still strongly encouraging people to wear them.
British Airways, the British airline, and British airline Virgin Atlantic said they were also revising their mask requirements.
From Wednesday, passengers on British Airways flights will only be required to wear masks on board if their destinations require it, British Airways chief operating officer Jason Mahoney said in a statement.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s chief customer and chief operating officer, said the airline would also remove mask requirements on routes where international mask-wearing regulations did not apply, starting with flights to the Caribbean from Heathrow and Manchester.
“Customers should have a personal choice whether to wear a mask on board,” Koster said in a statement, adding that masks would still be required on many of their routes, including those to and from the United States. United, until at least April. 18.