The Omikron variant currently leads to record high infection rates in the UK, and in the last seven days alone, almost 1.3 million people have tested positive for covid-19.
Precisely the high infection rates are the reason why the British government no longer believes that there is a need for equally strict entry rules.
– Omikron is global, it is all over the world, everyone has it now and the proportion coming into the country from outside is minimal compared to the figures we have here, says Minister of Transport Grant Shapps to the British TV channel Sky News.
The following facilitations are now being made:
- From 7 January, fully vaccinated or those under 18 do not need to be tested before leaving for England. Upon arrival, you must take a PCR test, but you no longer need to be in isolation while waiting for an answer.
- From 9 January, the PCR test can be replaced with the cheaper rapid test. The test must be taken by a private provider on day two after arrival. If it becomes positive, you must take a PCR test to get the result confirmed.
Unvaccinated people must still take a test before departure, PCR tests on days two and eight of the quarantine period, and be quarantined for 10 days.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also making similar concessions.
Help for the tourism industry
The decision to make relief came after research done on behalf of the tourism industry showed that testing before departure did not make a big difference when it came to the spread of omikron.
The industry also pointed out that the test requirements made it more difficult for them to get back on their feet financially.
“We have come past the point where international travel restrictions can play a role in curbing the spread of infection, and if there are no benefits there, the measures should be removed,” Tim Hawkins of Manchester Airport Group said earlier this week to BBC.
Virologist Sarah Pitt at the University of Brighton, on the other hand, believes it makes sense to test people before boarding a plane because statistics show that up to one in three coronary heart disease does not get symptoms, but can still infect others.
– It is not that you pose a special risk because you travel, but people should be tested regularly anyway, Pitt says to BBC.
Around 3.3 million, or every fifteenth inhabitant in England, had covid-19 in the last week of 2021, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
In London, every tenth inhabitant had been diagnosed with an infection during the last week of last year.