INnternational travel will receive its biggest boost in two years when the government scraps the need to be Covid tested before and after you arrive back home in England or Scotland – provided you are fully vaccinated or under 18.
The rule change, which comes just in time for the half-term break, applies to anyone arriving after 4am on Friday 11 February. Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to change their testing rules, although they are expected to follow.
Under-18s and those who qualify as fully vaccinated (having had the second jab at least 14 days previously) will no longer need to take a Covid test before they depart for home, nor after they arrive back.
On the same day, the unvaccinated will no longer be required to self-isolate on arrival but they will still need to take a pre-departure test, and book and pay for a day-two PCR test. The need for the second, day-eight, test is removed.
Everyone arriving in the UK will still be required to fill in a passenger locator form.
Those heading abroad face a bewildering set of rules – depending on their destination.
Most countries now require a vaccination certificate to enter without quarantine and, or, a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to 48 hours before the traveler departs the UK.
Some countries require the under-18s to prove they have been vaccinated or that adults have had a booster. In Austria, 16- and 17-year-olds must be fully vaccinated, take a test and have a booster in order to enter. Malta still requires 12- to 18-year-olds to be fully vaccinated before arrival.
For this reason, the UK government has announced that children aged 12-15 are to be given access to digital Covid passes in time for half-term. Families can also request an NHS Covid pass letter, which takes about seven working days to arrive.
Plenty of people who have had the coronavirus in the previous three months are returning positive results when they take pre-departure PCR tests.
Some countries, for example, Morocco, which reopens to tourists on 1 February, currently require a negative PCR test taken up to 48 hours before departure.
It is worth considering whether all your party would pass a test before you book an expensive trip. PCR tests will pick up traces of infection up to three months after it ended. Some countries will accept proof of recovery instead of a negative PCR test but not many.
It is expected that more countries will relax rules in the coming weeks and months but you may not want to bank upon it.