Country to drop COVID travel restrictions on March 18

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The UK is set to drop all remaining COVID-19 travel measures later this week, allowing all travelers – regardless of their vaccination status – to enter without a passenger locator form or a negative coronavirus test.

The new travel measures will come into force at 4am on Friday, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

“These changes are possible thanks to our deployment of vaccines and mean greater freedom in time for Easter,” shapps said in a Monday tweet.

Almost 86% of the UK population aged 12 and over received two doses of a vaccine on Sunday, according to government data.

Currently, adult travelers from the United States who are not fully immunized must present a negative coronavirus test taken no later than two days before travel and purchase a PCR test to be taken within the first two days of arrival. All passengers, regardless of their vaccination status, must complete a Passenger Locator Form no later than three days prior to arrival.

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The country’s travel restrictions are expected to ease even as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.

More than 444,000 people in the UK have tested positive in the past seven days, up 48% from the previous week, government data shows. Deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test rose 2% over the same period, while the number of patients admitted to hospital jumped 17%.

Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic drop face mask requirements

Also on Monday, London’s Heathrow Airport announced it would drop its face mask requirement in terminals, office buildings and stations on Wednesday.

“We are delighted to now be able to move away from a mandatory requirement as society learns to live with COVID in the longer term,” Heathrow Chief Operating Officer Emma Gilthorpe said in a statement on Monday. “Although we always recommend wearing them, we can be sure that the investments we have made in COVID safety measures – some of which are not always visible – combined with the fantastic protection provided by the vaccine will continue to ensure safety. people traveling. .”

Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have signaled they will start dropping face covering requirements in response.

Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s chief customer and operations officer, said the airline would “gradually” phase out its masking requirement, starting Wednesday with Caribbean services from Heathrow and Manchester airports. The company plans to continue to meet regulatory requirements in destination countries, and masks will still be required on “many” routes.

Koster added that travelers will be required to mask up on flights to or from the United States until at least April 18 to comply with the Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate.

“As we learn to live with Covid and with the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice of wearing a mask on board, on routes where international regulations regarding wearing a mask does not enforce,” Koster said in a statement. “We encourage everyone to respect the mask preferences of other passengers.”

Jason Mahoney, chief operating officer of British Airways, said the airline will only require masks on international flights if the destination requires them from Wednesday.

“For destinations where wearing a face covering is not mandatory, our customers can make a personal choice, and we ask that everyone respect individual preferences,” Mahoney said in a statement.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.

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