The United Kingdom will officially wind down the rest of its COVID-19-era travel rules starting a 4 a.m. on March 18.
Starting then, all international travelers, whether they are vaccinated or not, will be able to enter the U.K. without providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test or completing a passenger locator form.
Secretary of State for Transport Ron Shapps confirmed the news on Monday, writing in a message that “these changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.”
Travelers will still have to deal with tests coming back into their home countries, but no longer will they have to test in order to arrive in the U.K.
Previously in the pandemic, the U.K. required unvaccinated travelers to test prior to travel and then post-arrival in the U.K., while vaccinated travelers were allowed to travel test-free since late January. All travelers were also required to complete their passenger locator form.
Testing requirements, which have been in place largely since the pandemic started, have been seen as one of the major obstacles in getting consumers to travel again and return the industry to pre-pandemic levels.
Industry groups in the U.S. and Canada have been pushing for the removal of pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated inbound arrivals, including U.S. Travel, which partnered with other industry groups to urge the White House to move towards more normal travel earlier this year. Despite that push, there has been no movement in the U.S. as of yet, including on the face mask requirement, which was just extended into April.
In the U.K., those face mask requirements are also changing. Airports in the U.K are gearing up to drop face mask requirements this week, including Heathrow Airport, which said on Monday that it will still recommend people wear masks, but will no longer require them “as society learns to live with COVID longer term.”
Major U.K. carriers, including British Airways, also said they would drop their face mask requirements onboard, but only on flights from destinations that are also dropping the requirements, meaning U.S. and Canadian travelers will still be required to wear face masks in flight for the time being. More than 85% of the U.K. population aged 12 years and up have received two doses of a COVID vaccine, according to government data. Close to 92% have received their first dose and 67% have been boosted.
Comparably, the U.S. rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 65% fully vaccinated, 77% with at least one dose, and 29% boosted. In Canada, a little more than 80% of the population is fully vaccinated, with close to 85% receiving at least one dose and a little over 46% boosted, according to Canadian government data.
Daily active cases in the U.K. have come down since reaching 275,000 in January—about 47,000 cases were recorded on March 14, which is an increase over the late February low of 27,000.