All remaining coveted travel bans will be rolled out across the UK by the end of this week, despite a worrying increase in lawsuits and hospitalizations.
Ministers have approved the requirement to cancel passenger locator forms and to examine all non-vaccinated arrivals, with changes taking effect from 4 a.m. Friday.
Quarantine hotels, which have not been used since the “red list” of countries was vacated in December but have been kept on standby, will be completely closed from the end of March.
The Tory MP and the aviation industry pressured the government to take action before April, saying all internal restrictions had already been lifted.
Announcing the change, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said Monday it was “a greater freedom for travelers before the Easter holidays.”
The tourism industry would welcome this decision. On Monday, Heathrow announced that air travelers traveling through the airport would no longer have to wear masks from Wednesday. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have said they are preparing to eliminate requirements on ships when flying to destinations that do not require face cover.
Heathrow says it will still strongly encourage people to continue wearing masks at airports, recognizing that the epidemic is not over, but that it will no longer be a strong need – a reflection of practice around UK transport.
The BA and Virgin said the rules would apply to the required destinations, including masks, on many routes, including the United States, until at least April 18. Virgin flights to the Caribbean from both Heathrow and Manchester will see optional masks.
As the Covid situation in Britain worsens, health officials are concerned that the number of people hospitalized with the virus is growing rapidly.
Last week, 444,201 positive cases were recorded – an increase of 48.1%. The number of hospital admissions in England also stood at 10,576 as of 8am on 14 March – 19% higher than the previous week.
On Monday, a spokesman for Boris Johnson emphasized that there was no need for new restrictions to help prevent the spread of the virus.
He said the prime minister was “keeping a close eye on the data” but that “at the moment, we do not see anything close to the kind of pressure we are seeing at the top of the epidemic, when the proportions are so large. The population has not been vaccinated or increased.”
He added: “Of course we will always have contingency plans, but the Prime Minister and others have talked about how vaccinations and our therapeutics mean we don’t have to go back to the lockdowns of the past that required such significant measures.”
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, added that the UK was “in a very good position” to receive the vaccine and that the rate of infection was expected to increase.
To reassure those concerned about the demarcation of the border, he promised: “We will continue to monitor and track possible new forms, and reserve systems that can be deployed quickly if necessary to keep us safe.”
The Department of Transportation said the “default approach would be to use the least drastic measures” and that emergency measures would be “applied only in extreme cases”.
Last month, Johnson significantly relaxed the remaining Covid restrictions, announcing that there was no longer a need to isolate those infected with the virus and that the free mass trial would end on 1 April.
Self-isolation assistance was also discontinued, while sick pay rules were returned to the less liberal pre-epidemic system.