The U.K. Returning To Normality For Travelers
The United Kingdom is scrapping most COVID-19 restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers and almost all COVID-19 restrictions within the country—including mask-wearing—after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ended Plan B restrictions yesterday.
So what does this mean for travelers visiting the United Kingdom?
Quite a lot.
England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales removed most COVID-19 restrictions within the country last summer. But after Omicron emerged, the United Kingdom brought in Plan B measures. These included mandatory mask-wearing in shops, vaccine passports for large events of over 10,000 people, and new travel restrictions.
This is now changing.
The New Restrictions Within The United Kingdom
Although England had minimal COVID-19 restrictions, the nation will scrap all COVID-19 restrictions from January 26th, including mandatory mask-wearing and vaccine passports for very large events (over 10,000 people.)
As a result, England will feel like pre-pandemic times again:
- No mandatory masks
- No social distancing
- No vaccine passports for anything at all
- Zero limits on gatherings (although there haven’t been restrictions on gatherings since last summer)
- All bars and restaurants are at full capacity without restrictions (which hasn’t changed since last summer.)
- Nightclubs open without restrictions
- All popular tourist attractions will remain open
- Tourists can travel wherever, whenever without fear of restrictions
However, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will still attempt to enforce mandatory mask-wearing on public transport in London, despite many Londoners ignoring the mask-wearing restrictions for months.
The British Prime Minister said to the House of Commons: “In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
Scotland has always taken a stricter approach to COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic. When Omicron emerged, Scotland closed nightclubs, introduced a vaccine passport, enforced mandatory social distancing, and stopped large indoor events.
However, Scotland is now removing those restrictions on January 24:
- Nightclubs will fully reopen
- Social distancing will end
- Large events will continue
Scotland, however, will maintain a vaccine passport for some indoor events and continue mandatory mask-wearing in bars, churches, shops, public transport, and bus stops. This is the opposite of England.
What About Wales And Northern Ireland?
Although there are excellent things to do in both nations, most international tourists won’t visit Wales and Northern Ireland. That said, Wales and Northern Ireland—similarly to Scotland—have their own policy on COVID-19 due to devolved power from England. Both countries have been far stricter than England. For example, Wales is continuing COVID-19 measures and ignoring the British government this week.
You can find out more about restrictions in Wales and Northern Ireland via the United Kingdom government website.
The New Travel Rules to Enter the UK
The United Kingdom will end all testing for fully vaccinated travelers in the coming weeks.
The British Prime Minister announced there would be a statement in the coming days. However, The Times reported that the British Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, is ending all testing for travelers, regardless of where they’ve come from.
Although there hasn’t been an official announcement yet—we expect one in the coming days. And it’s likely the removal of travel restrictions will start before school half-term in the U.K, which starts in mid-February.
There have been no reports on whether the entry rules will change for unvaccinated travelers, but once the British government announces the new rules—we’ll update you straight away.
However, the reports suggest:
- No pre-departure test for vaccinated travelers
- No test on arrival or after arrival for vaccinated travelers
- Travelers will only have to complete one health form upon arrival
Entering the United Kingdom—other than the mandatory health form—will feel like 2019 again, which is great news for travelers.
The United Kingdom is the most-relaxed European destination for North American tourists. Most of Europe has restrictions, vaccine passports, and testing requirements.
The United Kingdom, especially London and the rest of England, is a superb place to visit right now.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories