U.K. Removes COVID Testing for Vaccinated Travelers as Rule 'Outlived its Usefulness'

The U.K. is no longer requiring COVID-19 travel tests for vaccinated individuals, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday.

"To show that this country is open for business, open for travelers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated if they have been double vaccinated," Johnson said, according to the Associated Press.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change would go into effect on February 11, which coincides with a midterm break many children around the country have, according to the BBC.

"Border testing of vaccinated travelers has outlived its usefulness," Shapps told AP. "Today we are setting Britain free."

Under the change, the government lifted testing requirements for vaccinated adults and children under 18. Britain is also easing testing for unvaccinated travelers, who will no longer need to quarantine, according to AP.

Current requirements include vaccinated travelers taking a rapid COVID test within two days of arriving in the country, AP reported. Unvaccinated individuals currently face stricter quarantine and testing rules.

Everyone entering England and Scotland, regardless of their vaccination status, will need to complete a passenger locator form, the BBC said. Shapps said the forms, which are currently "complex and difficult to navigate," will be simplified.

Travel and tourism companies, which have been hit hard during the pandemic and its restrictions, welcome the move.

"Nearly two years since the initial COVID restrictions were introduced, today's announcement brings international travel towards near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy," said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of airline industry body Airlines U.K.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive officer for the budget airline easyJet, said he believes COVID-19 travel testing is a "thing of the past."

"We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer," Lundgren said.

However, the BBC reported that not everyone agrees with the new change. Laboratory and Testing Industry Organisation Chairman Tom Watson said the restrictions were lifted too quickly.

"We have consistently backed relaxing unnecessary restrictions, but the only way that our country can avoid hard lockdowns is by maintaining a robust COVID testing regime to quickly discover new variants," Watson said.

The ease in travel restrictions came after Britain's government also lifted mask mandates and other regulations.

The U.K. government determines England's public health policy, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland create their own rules, but AP reported they've agreed to adopt the same international travel rules as England.

U.K. Covid-19 Testing Travel restrictions
The U.K. announced that starting February 11, vaccinated traveler will no longer be required to take a COVID-19 test. Above, a man arrives at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in west London on November 30, 2021. Adrian Dennis/Getty Images