Pre-Departure Test to England Scrapped

It has been widely welcomed by skiers, snowboarders and the wider snowsports industry. The risk of testing positive out in the Alps and being unable to come home until a period of self-isolation is completed has been removed. UPDATED

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said that people returning to England will not need a negative test taken within 48-hours of departure.

Also they will only need a lateral flow test within 48-hours of arriving in England.

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has tweeted that fully vaccinated passengers and under 18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England if arriving after 04:00 on Friday.

He said the same groups arriving in England will now only need to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test if they arrive after 04:00 on Sunday.

It will be a welcome relief for those skiers and snowboarders heading back to the UK after a New Year ski trip.

The need to self-isolate before getting a negative result is also ending.

The Transport Secretary said that Omicron is the dominant variant in the UK and is widespread so the current measures are no longer proportionate.

He claimed the move supported the safe reopening of international travel.

“The news that pre-departure tests for people travelling to England will be removed is great news for skiers and the travel sector,” said the CEO of Inghams, Joe Ponte, to PlanetSKI.

“One thing we know about skiers, is that the majority of them still want to ski this winter if they can, and while many of them were still intent on hitting the slopes this season, this latest update makes it easier for them to do so.”

There has been a reported surge in travel bookings.

EasyJet said its bookings rose almost 200% compared to last week, while Tui says it experienced a “strong uptick”.

TUI operates the UK’s largest ski operator, Crystal Ski Holidays.

Others also welcomed the move.

“This is brilliant news for the industry and we expect to see ski lesson availability snapped up for the busy month of February over the coming days,” said the Founder and CEO of Maison Sport, Nick Robinson.

“Not only is it brilliant news for those travelling but it will also provide a welcome boost to all of our ski instructors”

“The old rules were perhaps in place for 2 to 3 weeks more than they needed to be based on the fact that they were implemented mainly to slow the spread of Omicron, but Omicron was dominant in the UK from the 17th of December or earlier so it’s clear that rules were causing more harm than good to certain industries.

“It’s really important that moving forward there is a clearer plan for the travel industry with regards to how we deal with new variants in the future,” Nick added.

Image © Maison Sport.

The New Rules

  • People no longer need to take a pre-departure test two days before travelling
  • You still have to take a PCR test within two days of arriving, but no longer have to self-isolate while waiting for the result
  • However, from Sunday you can take a cheaper lateral flow test (LFT) instead – but these cannot be free NHS tests and must be purchased privately
  • If your post-arrival LFT is positive, you must self-isolate and have a NHS PCR to confirm the result
  • Vaccinated travellers still have to fill in and submit an online passenger locator form no more than 48 hours before arriving, even if they are just transiting

The pre-departure test has been a significant obstacle to people taking a ski holiday.

The threat of not being able to come back to England at the end of a holiday has been very real for many, and a fact for some.

Here is the experience of one PlanetSKI reader, David Quirk, who was in Cervinia in the Aosta Valley in Italy over the Xmas period.

“My partner tested positive on our return test and as a close contact we were shipped off to a Government Hotel in Aosta.

“Have to say the faculties were extremely basic and were filthy when we arrived on Xmas day !!!

“Very little communication and pretty much left to defend for yourself from UK authorities and the travel company ( although the rep was keeping in touch as much as he could ).

“I felt sorry for the people who shared our taxi to testing point ( Cervinia has a little pharmacy and was swamped with applications for testing ) who were also put in isolation as being close contacts from sharing the taxi with us !!!”

Cervinia, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

Cervinia, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

The change comes as no great surprise and had been widely forecast in the media.

We wrote about it earlier on Wednesday on PlanetSKI:

And mentioned it in a wider article on Tuesday:

The move has been widely welcomed.

Here is some reaction from our readers on the PlanetSKI Facebook page:

Alison Hodge – That will make for a less stressful holiday! Keeping everything crossed for Italy on 5th Feb.

Gary Hobin – Hopefully other countries will follow.
Rosie Humm – Great. Now all we need is for Macron to limit his ban to Brexit-voters only & allow all us sensible remain-voters back to go skiing.
Graeme Walker – Hopefully Sturgeon makes the same rules or I’ll be changing my flights to flying from England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
Gary Todd – Does this only apply to returning to England from abroad?
Flying to the Alps

Flying over the Alps. Image © PlanetSKI

Travellers will remain having to pay for private lateral flow tests rather than using free NHS tests.

The previous measures had an impact on the snowsports industry with people cancelling trips to the mountains

Last month the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said that “very soon”, if Omicron became the dominant variant, there would be “less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all”.

Omicron is now dominant hence the easing of travel testing.

There are currently restrictions for entering all the skiing nations, though for most this means people must be fully vaccinated and some require further testing.

The general French ban on people arriving from the UK remains in place.

However it looks like this too is set to go but there are no firm details.

See our latest report, just posted:

One resort in the French Alps told us “we are keeping out fingers and toes crossed” and that “we are watching the situation closely”.

Les Menuires, France. Image © PlanetSKI

Les Menuires, France. Image © PlanetSKI

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, has caused a storm when he said on Tuesday that he wanted to make life difficult for unvaccinated people.

“I really want to piss them off, and we’ll carry on doing this – to the end,” he told Le Parisien newspaper.

In his interview he used the vulgar term ‘emmerder’.

“I won’t send [unvaccinated people] to prison,” he said.

“So we need to tell them, from 15 January, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theatre. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.”

Mandatory vaccinations are being introduced in several European countries, with Austria leading the way for over-14s from next month.

Germany is planning a similar move for adults.

The government in Italy is currently considering a compulsory vaccine pass for at least anyone over 60.

Lyon airport

Lyon airport, gateway to and from the French Alps. Image © PlanetSKI.

The latest move on travel from the UK government comes after a grim few weeks with tightened rules and many ski holiday cancellations

The UK snowsports industry, and wider travel sector, claims it has received precious little direct help from the government during the pandemic as we recently reported:

We do our very best at PlanetSKI to ensure the information provided here is as complete and up-to-date as possible. However, please be aware that we assume no liability in this respect. Information provided by PlanetSKI should be checked with the official information provided by the authorities. The situation regarding travel warnings and local rules changes quickly.

Image © PlanetSKI