* Transport secretary simplifies travel rules, cut costs
* Expensive testing scrapped for fully vaccinated
* Destinations will be ranked high or low risk
LONDON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Britain simplified rules on
Friday for international travel to England in a boost to the
tourism industry, including scrapping the need for fully
vaccinated passengers to take expensive COVID-19 tests on
arrival from low-risk countries.
Under the new proposals, destinations will simply be ranked
low or high risk, instead of red, amber and green. Eight
countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives, will be
removed from the high-risk red band from next Wednesday which
requires passengers to quarantine in a hotel.
From Oct. 4, vaccinated passengers arriving from low-risk
countries will be permitted to take a cheaper lateral flow test,
rather than the privately administered PCR lab tests now
required. PCR tests for a family now can cost hundreds of
"Today's changes mean a simpler, more straightforward
system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more
people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the
world while providing a boost for the travel industry,"
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.
The British government sets policy for England, while
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced months of pressure to
ease the restrictions. Airlines and travel companies blamed the
testing and complicated rules for the slowness of a recovery in
air travel over the summer and warned https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uks-travel-sector-facing-new-wave-job-cuts-industry-body-warns-2021-09-14
that far-reaching changes were needed or more job losses would
follow the 100,000 already lost.
The industry, already on its knees after 18 months of
restrictions, is facing a cliff edge as a government furlough
scheme ends later this month with winter approaching, when fewer
people travel and businesses tend to make a loss.
Unvaccinated travellers returning from low-risk countries
will be required to take a pre-departure test, plus PCR tests on
day two and day eight, and to self-isolate for 10 days on
arrival, the government said.
England will also expand the list of countries from which it
recognises vaccinations, after the success of a pilot with the
United States and Europe. Another 17 countries and territories
will be added to the list, including Japan and Singapore.
Data shows that Britain's travel recovery is lagging. UK
flights were down 39% compared with pre-pandemic levels for the
two weeks to early Sept. 6, while France, Spain and Italy were
down between 24% and 28%, according to Eurocontrol.
The travel company Thomas Cook described the changes as "a
shot in the arm for the travel industry while airline bosses,
such as EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren, urged
the government to go further by eliminating any screening of
vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries.
The British Airline Pilots Association said the changes were
good news for the industry. But workers in the sector would be
among those most hurt by the end of the government's furlough
programme, which has paid salaries of staff sent home during the
pandemic and expires at the end of this month.
"But there is still a way to go before UK aviation can truly
take off again and the industry remains precariously placed
after a dire summer season," BALPA Acting General Secretary
Martin Chalk said. "With furlough ending it is going to be hard
for cash strapped airlines to get back up and running as demand
($1 = 0.7247 pound)
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Costas Pitas, Guy Faulconbridge
and Sarah Young, Editing by Angus MacSwan, Philippa Fletcher,
Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis)