All remaining COVID travel measures, including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for unvaccinated arrivals, have now ended in the UK.
A range of “contingency measures” will be kept in reserve so ministers can take “swift and proportionate action” if needed to tackle new variants, according to the Department for Transport.
It is understood that these include targeted testing from a country where a new variant has been detected.
The plans would only be enacted “in extreme circumstances”, the department said.
Previously only fully vaccinated people were able to enter the UK without the need for tests.
All arrivals were also required to fill in a passenger locator form within 72 hours of travel, sharing their address, phone number, passport and flight details.
The forms were launched two years ago, when arrivals had to quarantine at home, to help check if travellers were following the rules.
‘Greater freedom ahead of Easter’ despite rising COVID cases
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “I said we wouldn’t keep travel measures in place for any longer than necessary, which we’re delivering on today – providing more welcome news and greater freedom for travellers ahead of the Easter holidays.”
Aviation minister Robert Courts said the lifting of restrictions was due to “sacrifices made by the whole country”, adding that he hopes to “never see a day” when the rules are re-introduced.
The decision was made despite rising COVID-19 cases in all four UK nations since the end of January, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Infections in the UK have risen by 43.9% in the last seven days, with another 534,747 people testing positive.
The number of people hospitalised with the virus has increased 22% in the last week – a total of 11,580 patients in the last seven days.
In England hospital admissions remain well below the peaks reached during the Omicron and previous waves, while in Scotland the figure was close to the record peak seen in January last year, according to data from ZOE and King’s College London.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the lifting of travel restrictions was possible due to the success of the vaccine rollout and said the government would continue to monitor potential new variants.
‘A final game-changer’
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK – the industry body representing UK carriers, welcomed the changes, saying “the time to return to the skies is now”.
“People want to go away, and there is a real air of positivity within the sector now,” he said.
Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni, a tourism company, said: “The removal of all travel restrictions is the final game-changer – people can now go on holiday or visit family and friends overseas without all of the stress that comes with testing before they return home.
“Finally, we’ve seen the back of the unpopular and ineffective passenger locator forms, which were always a hassle to complete.
“Travel has been in turmoil for two years but now it’s back.”
He said bookings have risen in the last few months for destinations like the Maldives, Mauritius, the Caribbean and Europe.