The United Kingdom (UK) is considering scrapping its Covid-19 test before departure for vaccinated travelers entering the country, according to people familiar with the matter, after airlines hard hit by the Omicron variant have lobby to relax the rules.
The government is likely to retain a mandate for vaccinated arrivals to quarantine until they have made a test within two days of arriving in the country, said the people, who asked not to be identified before a decision was made.
Ministers are scheduled to hold their regular three-week review of travel rules on Wednesday.
A relaxation of the rules would bring some relief to the airlines after the proliferation of Omicron stifled air travel during the end of the year.
While governments have tightened border rules in response to the new variant, evidence is growing that it is producing milder symptoms than previous Covid waves.
Shares in UK-dependent airlines, including Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc and British Airways owner IAG SA, reversed previous losses after local news media reported on the plans.
Britain, one of the first countries to identify Omicron’s presence, has been subject to targeted restrictions from nations including Germany and France. Hong Kong on Wednesday banned flights for two weeks from a number of countries, including Britain and the United States.
Together with other governments, Britain tightened its own entry requirements from November, as a setback compared to what had taken the form of a broad recovery in air travel.
The breakdown halted progress towards the use of so-called vaccine passports, which had been seized during the summer.
Airlines, which have raged against border restrictions through the two-year coronavirus crisis, on Wednesday stepped up a campaign to lift the test mandate in full, arguing that the significant costs are crushing demand.
Manchester Airports Group and industry lobby Airlines UK published research claiming that removing test requirements on international travel would not affect Covid’s proliferation and that domestic restrictions were the only way to stem the virus in the UK.
The aviation industry has faced ever-changing travel rules during the pandemic.
In May, the UK introduced a so-called traffic light system that set entry requirements by country, with arrivals from places classified as red being forced to pay for an expensive hotel quarantine.
The system was revised in late summer to rely more on vaccination status. Until the launch of Omicron, travelers from most places who could show they had a full dose of approved vaccines were allowed to enter without testing.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain could handle a record wave of Covid-19s without tightening restrictions.
© 2022 Bloomberg