Holidays in Gibraltar will become even more attractive this autumn and winter when the UK government eases its COVID test requirement for returning travellers.
From 4 October, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to arrange a pre-departure PCR test before leaving for England from Gibraltar – and other destinations. The day-two PCR test on their return will still be required, but only until later in October, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps, when cheaper rapid lateral flow tests will be allowed.
Shapps said, “The purpose is to make it easier to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests, and with a greater level of certainty now that we’ve got so many people vaccinated.
“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and, with more than eight in 10 adults fully vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”
The new travel rules are due to remain in place “at least until the new year”.
The UK government’s overhaul of its international travel rules will also include a simplification of the “traffic light system”, with only the “red list” remaining for high-risk countries. This mainly affects “amber” countries such as Spain and Portugal, as Gibraltar has been one of the elite “green” destinations since May. Since then, the British overseas territory has been promoting itself as the ideal “British staycation in the Med” for holidaymakers.
The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments, which have been granted devolved control over travel matters, are yet to announce if they will follow the lead of England, although they are expected to at least simplify their own traffic light systems.
Travel and tourism industry leaders have understandably welcomed the new protocols, but they have also called for the government to lift other travel restraints. Their comments coincide with the release of a passenger confidence tracker report by satellite communications company Inmarsa which indicates that people are more concerned about the risk of quarantine than becoming infected with COVID.
The global poll among 10,000 passengers found that the uncertainty of testing positive for COVID and being stuck away from home, or learning that a country has suddenly adopted a more restrictive regime (as has been the case with UK’s traffic light system), is the key factor in undermining air travel confidence.
Otherwise, Inmarsat concluded that passengers are essentially happy with airlines’ health and safety measures, and are becoming more satisfied with their responses to the pandemic (up to 72 per cent from 60 per cent in 2020).