The government is poised to confirm the removal of all Covid tests on arrival for fully vaccinated travellers, if not by the end of January then in time for the February half-term.
However, attention will then turn to how long vaccination certificates remain valid amid concern that a lack of international harmonisation could lead to conflicting expiry dates.
Industry sources in talks with government confirmed reports that arrival tests should be removed for those vaccinated in a review of travel restrictions this week, saying transport secretary Grant Shapps “has been mulling this for some time”. However, the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) is set to remain, along with the ‘red list’ and option to reintroduce testing.
An aviation source told Travel Weekly: “The devolved administrations are feeding into the UK government review but will make decisions themselves. The Scottish government’s position is there needs to be a framework for stepping [restrictions] back up.”
Since the government confirmed it would drop pre-departure tests for those travelling to the UK, and accept lateral flow tests for arrivals as well as PCRs, the industry has stressed it is keen to see a “proper plan” to deal with future variants. The source noted: “We want to know the approach in advance [of a variant being identified], but whether the government will do that isn’t clear.”
A senior airline source said: “A key area now is the validity of vaccination certificates. There is no expiry date at the moment, but certain countries in Europe are setting an expiry date of nine months [since the last jab]. We need international alignment.
“If the baseline is too high, it will shrink the market. Iata’s position is for a baseline of 12 months’ [validity]. But a lot depends on the level of vaccination required going forward. We might not need frequent boosters.”
However, the second source warned: “Nine months’ [expiry] will probably become general.”
The airline source added: “The PLF needs a radical simplification. If there is no arrival test, contact tracing is ludicrous. But calls to remove the PLF are mistaken.
“The PLF automatically uploads the vaccination status [of travellers] so airlines don’t need to verify certificates. The government supplies the verification to the carrier. The PLF’s primary use [now] is verifying vaccination certificates.”