London — Starting Friday, vaccinated travelers can now enter Britain without taking a coronavirus test. The U.K. government has had the restrictions imposed for the past two years.
British citizens, residents, and visitors who have had complete and approved coronavirus vaccine need to fill out a passenger locator form before arriving in the U.K.
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Tests before and after arriving are required for un-vaccinated travelers. Still, they need not self-isolate till the negative result.
Grant Shapps said the U.K. Transport Secretary said, “The U.K. now has one of the most free-flowing borders; it’s a clear message that we are open for business.”
Airlines and other travel firms welcomed the change as a lifeline. There is a huge demand for international travel, with people rushing to book trips for the February school break and April’s Easter holiday.
Sean Doyle, the British Airways chief executive, has urged other countries to follow the pragmatic British approach.
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However, some scientists are worried the government is moving too fast. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government scrapped vaccine passports for gaining entry to nightclubs, and large-scale events face masks are no longer mandatory in most indoor spaces in England.
The official advice to work from home was revoked. Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have also lifted most restrictions.
Prime Minister Johnson announced he hopes by the end of February to lift the final restriction of the mandatory self-isolation for people who test positive as part of a plan to live long-term with COVID-19.
The government plans to move on from legal restrictions to strictly advisory measures. It intends to treat the coronavirus more like the flu as it becomes endemic in the country.
The re-opening came as the U.K. economy grew by an unexpected 7.5% in 2021 had contracted by 0.2% due to an omicron-driven slowdown by December.
National Statistics Office said the growth followed the 2020 9.4% contraction as the pandemic closed down large chunks of the economy. The U.K. economy has regained its former size it was in February 2020.
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Britain had Europe’s highest coronavirus toll behind Russia, with over 159,000 deaths recorded. The country saw a drop in new infections and hospital admissions since the omicron spike in early January.
Officials have credited the government’s booster vaccine program for preventing the surge in omicron cases and causing severe stress to U.K. hospitals. In Britain, 84.6% of people 12 are vaccinated, and almost two-thirds have had the third booster shot.