MAG and Airlines UK backed research from Oxera and Edge Health supports calls for the removal of international travel restrictions

Research commissioned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and Airlines UK, has shown that the removal of all testing requirements on international travel this month would not impact the spread of Omicron in the UK.

The research, conducted by Oxera and Edge Health showed that domestic restrictions would be the only way to reduce the spread of Omicron in the UK, which is now the dominant variant. 

 This conclusion supports comments from the Health Secretary on 8th December, that once Omicron had become the dominant strain in the UK there would be no need for travel restrictions at all, as they become ineffective in reducing the spread of the virus.  

 Further findings showed that pre-departure and Day 2 PCR testing introduced in late November and early December respectively had little to no impact on Omicron case rates in the UK, compared to if the travel policy of a single Day 2 antigen test had stayed the same. 

 The publication of Oxera and Edge Health’s findings comes ahead of a Government update on travel restrictions expected on 5thJanuary. 

 The impact of the re-introduction of testing requirements for international travel was felt by the sector from early December, with the recovery of passenger numbers at MAG’s airports falling by more than 30% after Omicron measures were introduced. An economic impact study, also conducted by Oxera at the time, showed that extra testing in response to Omicron reduced the UK aviation’s contribution to the economy by £60m per week.

 Key conclusions from Oxera and Edge Health’s most recent study on the 31st December 2021 were:

  •  That the removal of all travel testing requirements in January would have no impact the spread of Omicron in the UK;
  • That the travel restrictions imposed in late November had virtually no distinguishable effect on Omicron case rates in the UK, compared to leaving travel policy unchanged (i.e. requiring a Day 2 antigen test); and
  • That even if the Government had put in place pre-departure and Day 2 PCR testing from the beginning of November, the peak would only have been delayed by 5 days and been 3% lower. 

 MAG CEO Charlie Cornish and Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade said:

 “The Health Secretary rightly acknowledged as early as 8 December that the value of any form of restrictions was significantly reduced once Omicron became dominant in the UK.

 “This latest research by Oxera and Edge Health clearly supports the position that travel testing requirements can be removed in full without impacting overall case rates and hospitalisations in the UK.

 "It should give the UK Government confidence to press ahead with the immediate removal of these emergency restrictions, giving people back the freedom to travel internationally to see loved ones, explore new places and generate new business opportunities.

“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.”