The travel industry is calling on ministers to remove all remaining Covid testing requirements for international travellers, arguing they are damaging the travel sector and will not affect the spread of the Omicron variant.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and the trade body Airlines UK said in a joint statement that research they commissioned into travel restrictions supported the position that the removal of travel testing requirements would not affect overall cases rates and hospitalisations in the UK.
The two organisations said the research showed that domestic rather than international restrictions would be the only way to reduce Omicron’s spread within the country.
Ministers introduced additional testing requirements in late November and early December because of fears about the spread of the newly identified variant.
All passengers arriving in the UK have to take a pre-departure Covid test, taken no more than 48 hours before setting off for the UK. In addition, travellers are required to take a PCR test within the first two days after their arrival.
MAG, the UK’s largest airport group, which runs Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, has sent ministers its research, before a government re-examination of rules for international travel on Wednesday and amid reports that the pre-departure testing requirements are set to be dropped at the review.
MAG’s chief executive, Charlie Cornish, and the Airlines UK chief executive, Tim Alderslade, urged the UK government to immediately remove what they called “emergency restrictions”.
They said: “Travel restrictions come at huge cost to the travel industry, and to the UK economy as a whole, placing jobs at risk and holding back the recovery of one of our most important sectors. It is therefore vital they do not remain in place a day longer than is necessary.”
MAG said passenger numbers at its airports fell by more than 30% in early December after the introduction of new testing requirements.
Tim Hawkins, the chief of staff at MAG, said the group had understood that travel restrictions would be removed “if they stopped playing a useful role in limiting spread of the virus”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Between October and November, passengers responded to the lifting of travel restrictions very positively and we were seeing a good level of recovery coming through. But the new measures at the end of November and December knocked that back by about a third.”