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bbc licence fee scrapped alternative funding plans netflix subscription

With the BBC licence fee set to be culled, what will replace the funding model in the UK? (Image: GETTY)

The future of the licence fee has been thrown into doubt, following an announcement by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. The UK Government has already announced plans to freeze the BBC licence fee for the next two years – resulting in a real-terms pay cut to the BBC due to the spiralling inflation, that’s also set to trigger record-breaking price increases for those with broadband contracts. The BBC licence fee will remain at £159 a year until April 2024 when it will begin rising in line with inflation until the end of the existing Royal Charter on December 31, 2027. And after that?

The UK Government will introduce a new Royal Charter – the constitutional basis for the BBC, which is designed to set out the broadcaster’s mission and funding model – that will last for the next decade, with a review by ministers at the mid-point. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries hopes to introduce an entirely new funding model for the Beeb. An ongoing review by the Government will look into whether “a mandatory licence fee is appropriate” in the 21st Century.

Politicians have spoken about ditching the BBC licence fee for decades, but the latest moves from Boris Johnson’s cabinet suggest its days could be numbered. If the UK Government decides to see off the funding model from January 1, 2028 …what could replace the BBC licence fee?

Funded Directly By The Government

This cuts out the middleman, replacing the need for viewers to set-up a Direct Debit and pay the BBC licence fee themselves. Instead, the Beeb receives its funding direct from the Treasury, with the cost coming from taxation on income of all workers in the UK. This is the model used in a number of countries around the world, including Sweden, Croatia and Finland. Like any of the options – including the current BBC licence fee system – it’s not perfect.

Unlike the licence fee, there’s no way to check whether or not the person being taxed listens to BBC radio stations, podcasts, watches the terrestrial channels, reads the BBC website or uses iPlayer. Of course, that’s the nature of general taxation. Taxing PAYE workers would mean there’s no need to hunt down licence fee evasion, which would save the corporation a lot of time and hassle.

Some have raised concerns that funding the public broadcaster from the Government could give politicians greater influence over editorial decisions and strategy – undermining the core principle of impartiality.

bbc licence fee scrapped alternative funding plans netflix subscription

Could we begin to see advertising appears on the BBC website and breaking up shows like Strictly? (Image: UNSPLASH)

Advertising

The most obvious alternative funding model for the Beeb is to allow the corporation to air advertisement breaks during its shows. Other public broadcasters, like ITV and Channel 4, already include ad breaks in their shows. So, what’s the problem? First of all, the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ has resulted in a decline in revenues from TV advertising, so there’s no guarantee that the BBC would be able to maintain the same breadth of content with funding from advertising alone.

In a bid to bolster its coffers, the BBC could prioritise high-yield programming to sell more advertising. For example, Strictly Come Dancing is a Saturday night juggernaut with 11 million people across the UK tuning in. Those advertising spots are going to bring in some serious cash for the broadcaster, but what about the more niche content – like the GCSE BiteSize shows produced to help teenagers revise for their upcoming exams? These won’t bring in huge viewing figures and could be ditched – or at the very least, have their budgets greatly reduced – as the Beeb follows the money in order to sustain itself.

Using Advertising to fund its programming could cause new frictions for the Beeb, which doesn’t currently have to worry about maintaining relationships with advertisers. Shows like BBC Newsnight or Panorama are likely to trigger headaches for the sales team inside the BBC trying to sell ad spots in the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing with critical coverage of multi-national conglomerates. If the Beeb depends on those ad breaks to secure its future, it could shift the balance of power. Of course, it’s perfectly possible to maintain editorial independence while being funded by advertising – Channel 4 has revealed some of the biggest scoops of the last decade, including the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal – but it’s something that the BBC doesn’t have to consider at the moment and would require some of its stretched resources.

What Is The BBC Licence Fee?

Introduced by the Labour Government in 1946, Prime Minister Clement Attlee made the annual BBC licence fee a requirement for any household in the UK that consumed content from the Beeb via live transmission. In exchange for funds provided by the licence fee, the BBC is required to provide public service broadcasting. This includes live television shows, podcasts, radio stations, online news and sports via the BBC website, educational shows for children, mobile apps, and much more.

Today, anyone who listens to radio shows, watches channels streamed via BBC iPlayer on a tablet or smartphone, as well as terrestrial channels watched on Freeview-equipped Smart TVs, Sky Q or Virgin Media set-top boxes is required to pay the BBC licence fee. You’ll also need to pay the fee to download boxsets and movies from BBC iPlayer, stream live content from the BBC via third-party websites like YouTube, or record shows onto a hard-drive, like Sky+ or Sky Q.

Anyone who does not pay the licence fee can be taken to court. In 2019, there were a total of 122,603 prosecutions and 114,531 people were convicted for TV licence evasion.

The BBC licence fee currently costs £159 a year, or £53.50 if you only watch via black-and-white TVs.

Paid By A Tax On Broadband

As more viewers turn away from traditional terrestrial channels and enjoy BBC shows via on-demand platforms like BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer, surely it makes sense to fund the Beeb from the broadband connections that enable access to all of that content? This tax could be paid by consumers or by the internet service providers. According to research by media analytics firm Ampere, an annual fee of £138 a year on all broadband customers across the UK would maintain the current funding achieved by the £159 a year licence fee. So, everyone would have a little extra cash in their pocket, the Beeb would remain independent and would not need to worry about only funding its most mainstream, advertiser-friendly shows. Everyone is happy, right?

Well, not quite.

If internet service providers, like BT, Sky and Plusnet, passed the £138 a year charge onto customers, it could be harder for deprived households to access the internet. While it’s possible to sign-up to a broadband connection from around £20 a month right now (with concessions available to those on Universal Credit), the extra £138 a year licence fee would add around £11.50 extra to each broadband bill.

That means you might not be able to sign-up a broadband contract with average download speeds for under £31.50 a month. With families across the UK already stretched due to the cost-of-living crisis, that’s a hefty rise.

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bbc licence fee scrapped alternative funding plans netflix subscription

As more people access BBC content over an internet connection, could funding be linked to broadband? (Image: UNSPLASH)

A Netflix-Style Subscription

Netflix has revolutionised how many of us enjoy boxsets and movies. From as little as £5.99 a month, subscribers can stream and download an unlimited amount of telly across a wide range of devices. Due to its mind-boggling scale – Netflix is available in 190 countries worldwide – this relatively small monthly fee enables the streaming service to fund dazzling shows with high production values, such as Bridgerton, The Crown and Stranger Things, as well as reality shows, award-winning documentaries, such as Making A Murderer, My Octopus Teacher, Athlete A, and Seaspiracy, as well as blockbusters with Hollywood A-listers. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a huge library of syndicated content available too, with the likes of Friends and Seinfeld available to stream from any of your devices.

So, surely the Beeb can continue to produce its high-production documentaries, like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet, Dynasties, and Louis Theroux shows, as well as its Saturday night entertainment, educational content, and radio stations with a similar – or even a little costlier – subscription fee?

According to calculations by the BBC, this is possible. However, the corporation would need approximately 24 million customers signed-up and paying £13 a month to maintain the same level of funding as it currently enjoys. Perfect, right? Well, there are a number of issues with that plan. If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you can’t login to the video on-demand app or website to access any of its content …and that’s that.

The BBC licence fee currently funds a number of national radio stations, which are available to anyone who tunes into the correct frequency. It also funds the BBC website and terrestrial channels, like BBC One and BBC Two. While it’s possible to enforce a pay wall (a required login screen that checks whether you’ve paid the latest subscription fee) for BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds in exactly the same way as Netflix does, the BBC website could also be put behind similar checks (a number of news organisations have gone down a similar route, with readers required to subscribe to access the articles posted online) …there’s currently no technology that could prevent car infotainment systems or DAB radios from tuning into a certain frequency. Also, those who listen to BBC radio stations via a smart speaker, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, would need to find a way to verify their identity and login in order to tune-in.

And what about television viewers? It’s tough to imagine a way for the Beeb to ensure that all viewers are paying subscribers while also allowing its channels to remain on services like Freeview. Instead, the Beeb would have to follow in Netflix’s footsteps and go all-in on streaming. Unlike today, anyone who wants to access content from the BBC – including radio and live terrestrial channels – would need to subscribe to an internet package. That means you’d not only have to pay £13 a month for access to the Beeb, but you’d also need to add a Direct Debit to an internet service provider. As mentioned earlier, the minimum speeds you’d need to stream video content will cost around £20 a month.

That brings the total cost to roughly £33 a month, compared to the current BBC licence fee cost of £13.25 a month. Of course, the advantage of this model is, like Netflix, viewers would be able to unsubscribe whenever they wanted. Like Netflix, you could subscribe for a month when your favourite show is airing, then leave for a few months, and return when friends or colleagues tell you about a new must-watch boxset. That offers much more friendly than the current all-or-nothing licence fee.

Unfortunately, there is one more issue with the Netflix-style model …for now, at least. According to research from Ofcom, there are more than one million homes across the UK that are unable to access sufficiently fast broadband to stream video content, like that available from Netflix. These people would be unable to access any content from the country’s public broadcaster, which means it wouldn’t be fulfilling its mission as set out in the Royal Charter.

bbc licence fee scrapped alternative funding plans netflix subscription

For a comparatively low subscription, Netflix produces a stream of high-quality TV shows and film (Image: NETFLIX )

Worse still, a solution to this was on the horizon. Early last year, UK Government quietly confirmed plans to water down its commitment to bring full-fibre broadband connections to the entire country by 2025. The pledge to connect every home in the UK with gigabit-capable cables – more than fast enough to stream video content in ultra-crisp 4K Ultra HD picture quality as well as maintain video calls, download software updates and more at the same time – was a key part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s manifesto during the election in late 2019.

In its latest national infrastructure strategy, the Government has walked back its commitment – stating that faster internet speeds will now only be available to 85 percent of premises within the next five years. That means a number of rural areas will still be stranded with slower broadband speeds. The UK has some of the slowest home broadband speeds in Europe, with the average speed only hitting 70Mbps last year.

For those who want to download Call Of Duty on their PC – a video game that takes up more than 200GB of space – players with the average connection in this country can expect to wait six and a half hours. It will take almost 20 minutes to upgrade to the latest version of Windows 11. For comparison, Call Of Duty would take just 27 minutes on a gigabit full-fibre broadband connection, while the Windows update would take a mere 45-seconds.

…And What If The Licence Fee Stayed After All?

There are still five years before we reach the December 31, 2027 deadline. Based on recent political events, a lot can happen in that time. Five years this month, Prime Minister Theresa May was preparing to host a state visit from US President Donald Trump – which had sparked a petition signed by 1.8 million people who wanted to see the event cancelled.

With an election due before 2024 and potentially a new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in position – either from the Conservative party, or another Political party, attitudes towards the BBC licence fee could have changed. Nobody believes the current funding model is perfect, but it has sustained the corporation for over 75 years. That’s some pretty thorough road-testing. With full-fibre broadband upgrades still taking place and the way we listen to radio, consume the news, and watch telly changing so quickly… the existing model might not be the best way to move forward. But we’ll need to see the lay of the land in 2027 to make that decision.



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Shamed banker Antonio Horta-Osorio attended Euro 2020 final as well as Wimbledon when he breached Britain’s Covid rules last summer










Shamed banker Antonio Horta-Osorio attended the Euro 2020 final as well as Wimbledon when he breached Britain’s Covid rules last summer. 

The former boss of Lloyds Bank had a weekend of sporting fun in July, when he should have been at home isolating due to travel restrictions. 

It emerged late last year that Horta-Osorio, 57, had attended the Wimbledon finals on the weekend of July 10 and 11. 

Shamed: Antonio Horta-Osorio (pictured with wife, Ana) became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer

Shamed: Antonio Horta-Osorio (pictured with wife, Ana) became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer

But that same Sunday, it has been revealed, he also went to Wembley to watch Italy beat England in the final of the Euros, sources told the Financial Times. 

During both events Horta-Osorio, 57, should have been isolating, having jetted in to the country on a private plane. 

Horta-Osorio became chairman of Credit Suisse last summer. 

But he was forced to step down last weekend after the bank found out about his Wimbledon misdemeanour – plus another breach of Switzerland’s restrictions which occurred when he travelled to a wedding on the Iberian Peninsula at the start of December. 

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A quarter of parents admit to flouting school admissions criteria to get their child into their preferred local school, new Zoopla research suggests. 

The survey of parents with school age children comes ahead of the primary school application deadline on January 15.

It revealed the true extent of the lengths that parents are willing to go to in order to secure a place at the best schools.

And this may not be surprising, as they could face paying an average of £82,960 more for a property in a catchment area of a high-performing school, or a premium of £200,000 in London

A quarter of parents admit to flouting school admissions criteria to get their child into their preferred local school, new research suggests

A quarter of parents admit to flouting school admissions criteria to get their child into their preferred local school, new research suggests

The research also revealed that 17 per cent of parents of school aged children admit they lied, bent or broke school application rules to get their children into their preferred school, while a further 7 per cent say they ‘played the system’.

It means that one in four parents are going to extreme lengths to secure preferred school places for their children.

Bending the rules takes many forms. Among the parents who have, 27 per cent admit to exaggerating their religious affiliation or pretending to be religious in order to get into a faith school.

And 21 per cent say they registered their child at a family member’s address that was closer to their preferred school.

Some 10 per cent simply lied about their address, while 8 per cent said they temporarily rented a second home – that they child never lived in – within the catchment area.

Parents are willing to pay an average of £82,960 more for a property in a catchment area of a high-preforming school

Parents are willing to pay an average of £82,960 more for a property in a catchment area of a high-preforming school

Money and school donations also play a key role, with 16 per cent of parents who admit they bent the rules saying that they made a ‘voluntary donation’ to a particular school ahead of applying,

Others offered their time, with 20 per cent saying they volunteered at or became involved with a school ahead of applying for their child’s place, while 14 per cent say they became ‘friendly’ with senior figures at the school in order to curry favour.

Of course, many parents do not bend the rules – some are simply able to move into the catchment area of the school they want their children to go to.

In total, 28 per cent of parents who currently have school aged children said that they did this.

However, the research found that there is a huge premium attached to doing so, which might be prohibitive to some.

Among those who bought a home in a good catchment area, the average premium they paid was a huge £82,960, with the figure rising to £209,599 in London.

Some 21 per cent said they registered their child at a family member's address that was closer to their preferred school

Some 21 per cent said they registered their child at a family member’s address that was closer to their preferred school

The majority of parents are against bending or breaking rules to get children into a good school.

A total of 55 per cent said they feel it is an ‘unfair practice which should be stopped’ and 56 per cent who have done so, admit they feel guilty about it.

A further 6 per cent of parents admit they are so fed up with the practice that they have ‘grassed up’ another parent and reported them to the school.

However, 11 per cent believe it is acceptable and a further 19 per cent admit it isn’t fair but ‘everyone does it’.

Daniel Copley, of Zoopla, said: ‘We were blown away by the figures showing just how many parents are going to extreme lengths to get their kids into the preferred school, which suggests the practice is endemic to the application process and widespread across the country.

‘But even more parents move into the catchment area of the school they want their kids to go to – and we are poised to support them every step of the way.

‘While the premium on a property in the catchment area of a popular local school might appear steep, we know that many homeowners have far more equity tied up in their home than they realise, which could make a move into a good catchment area a possibility.’

The Department for Education was approached for a comment about how easy it is to break the rules and the lack of penalties among those who do, but it declined to respond. 

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New rules for travellers entering England 

  • From Friday, January 7, fully vaccinated travellers and those aged under-18 no longer need to take a test two days before travelling to England from countries outside the UK and the Common Travel Area. 
  • As of today, travellers will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR test on day two. This test must be purchased from a private test provider – free NHS tests are not allowed
  • Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days

Rules for testing have been eased for travellers arriving in England today, the Government has announced.

Since Friday, fully vaccinated travellers no longer have to take a pre-departure test before they travel to England.

And as of today, they may take a lateral flow test purchased from a private test provider within two days of arrival rather than the more expensive PCR. 

Until now, travellers have been required to take the PCR test before day two and self-isolate while waiting for the result. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the pre-departure test discouraged many from travelling ‘for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense’, the BBC reports.

The announcement comes after airlines claimed traveller testing was making little impact, with data last week suggesting that one in 25 people in England had the virus.

On Friday, an airline boss said that demand for holidays was returning to pre-pandemic levels after the announcement of the eased restrictions. 

The measures will save families hundreds of pounds on not having to buy so many tests and make it much easier to book holidays – and has resulted in a surge in demand among winter sun-seekers and families looking to reunite with loved ones.

PCR tests on average cost around £80 per traveller, compared to £20-£30 for a rapid swab, saving families up to £200 on post-arrival tests alone. They could save another £100 in tests taken for entry into the UK.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that demand for holidays had now reached similar levels to those seen before the start of the pandemic.

A busy terminal 5 arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport on Friday as passengers arriving back into the UK no longer need to take a PCR test

A busy terminal 5 arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport on Friday as passengers arriving back into the UK no longer need to take a PCR test

He said: ‘Demand is around pre-Covid levels. Prior to the announcement it was well below, but it has given people the confidence to look for a holiday, that they won’t be caught in resorts quarantining. People now want to start thinking about more cheerful things, ie going on holiday.

‘There’s always a risk that we could have new restrictions but I think the Omicron variant has shown to governments you need to bide your time and look at the science a bit before jumping into lockdown.

‘As Professor Whitty said we have to learn to live with this virus, we can’t just jump into further restrictions every time we have a new variant – we have to learn to live with it. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end we can get back to some form of normality.

‘Our plans for summer 2022 remain the same and we have a bigger programme than summer 2019. Some companies are saying it’s going to take two or three years to recover, we are back to above summer 2019 levels. 

‘I think it’s realistic [to be making such preparations], it’s optimistic obviously, but after two years of dealing with the virus, we’re in a place where we can live with it better. 

‘People are desperate to get away. It’s two or three years since some people have had a holiday, and I think it’s very good for health getting away in the sun, lying on a beach, getting some Vitamin D etc.’

Fully vaccinated travellers and those aged under 18 will no longer need to take a test two days before travelling to England

Fully vaccinated travellers and those aged under 18 will no longer need to take a test two days before travelling to England

Upon arrival, they will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR test on day two. This test must be purchased from a private test provider - free NHS tests are not allowed

Upon arrival, they will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR test on day two. This test must be purchased from a private test provider – free NHS tests are not allowed

Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days

Unvaccinated passengers will need to continue to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests on day two and day eight, and self-isolate for 10 days

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that demand for holidays had now reached similar levels to those seen before the start of the pandemic

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for tour operator Tui said Mr Johnson’s announcement ‘has given Brits the reassurance that travel will once again be easier and more affordable’. 

She went on: ‘We’ve already seen an immediate and strong uptick in bookings and we now expect summer 2022 bookings to be normalised. 

‘January is traditionally the busiest month for holiday bookings and demand is yet to reach pre-Covid levels, so we need to see sustained confidence in travel so the industry can fully recover.’ 

The firm’s biggest booking spikes have been for Mexico and the Canaries. Derek Jones, chief executive of luxury travel company Kuoni, said the easing of testing rules ‘should be the beginning of the end of Covid as a blocker to international travel’. 

Mr Jones continued: ‘I predict travel will be 90% back to 2019 levels before the end of spring. 

‘We’re already seeing increased call volumes and inquiries about trips for the year ahead as confidence builds.’ 

Britons can fly to 16 countries for under £10 this month – including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

The cheapest single flights found by MailOnline for this month were £4 from London Stansted to Zagreb with Ryanair, and £5 for both London Luton to Rome with WizzAir and Stansted to Eindhoven with Ryanair. UK tourists can also go from Stansted with Ryanair to Oslo or Krakow for £6, Vienna for £7 and Sofia or Dublin for £8.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement in the House of Commons earlier this week that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is now so prevalent in the UK that the measure is having limited impact on the spread of the disease.

Flight booking website Skyscanner now expects 2022 will now be a ‘bumper bargain year for travel’ with prices currently up to 71 per cent cheaper than pre-pandemic for some destinations, compared to the 2019 average.

The company said that in the first hours following Mr Johnson’s announcement, Skyscanner saw an 81 per cent increase in visits to the site, week on week. 

It said bookings by UK travellers were already up 25 per cent in the week to this Monday compared to the previous week – and the top five summer destinations booked by Britons are Orlando, Malaga, Faro, Alicante and Palma.  

Britons can fly to 16 countries for under £10 this month - including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain

Britons can fly to 16 countries for under £10 this month – including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain

Passengers sit in the international arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport today after the new testing rules were announced

Passengers sit in the international arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport today after the new testing rules were announced

Passengers walk around the departures area of London Heathrow Airport today after the rules were changed

Passengers walk around the departures area of London Heathrow Airport today after the rules were changed

Flight crew walk through Heathrow Airport today as it was revealed that pre-travel testing requirements will be dropped

Flight crew walk through Heathrow Airport today as it was revealed that pre-travel testing requirements will be dropped

Cheapest flights available for Britons this month

  • £4 to Croatia: London Stansted to Zagreb (Ryanair, January 22, 0830-1150, 2h20m)
  • £5 to Italy: London Luton to Rome (WizzAir, January 22, 1020-1350, 2h30m) 
  • £5 to Netherlands: London Stansted to Eindhoven (Ryanair, January 22, 0615-0830, 1h05m) 
  • £6 to Norway: London Stansted to Oslo (Ryanair, January 22, 1800-2100, 2h) 
  • £6 to Poland: London Stansted to Krakow (Ryanair, January 22, 0840-1155, 2h15m) 
  • £7 to Austria: London Stansted to Vienna (Ryanair, January 22, 0830-1135, 2h05m) 
  • £8 to Bulgaria: London Stansted to Sofia (Ryanair, January 25, 0635-1135, 3h) 
  • £8 to Ireland: London Stansted to Dublin (Ryanair, January 25, 0530-0745, 1h15m) 
  • £9 to Czech Republic: London Stansted to Prague (Ryanair, January 25, 1145-1435, 1h50m) 
  • £9 to Denmark: London Stansted to Copenhagen (Ryanair, January 26, 0840-1125, 1h45m)
  • £9 to Germany: London Stansted to Berlin (Ryanair, January 22, 0730-1010, 1h40m) 
  • £9 to Greece: London Stansted to Athens (Ryanair, January 25, 1545-2115, 3h30m) 
  • £9 to Latvia: London Stansted to Riga (Ryanair, January 19, 0620-1055, 2h35m)
  • £9 to Portugal: London Stansted to Lisbon (Ryanair, January 25, 0620-0910, 2h50m) 
  • £9 to Romania: London Luton to Bucharest (WizzAir, January 22, 1650-2205, 3h15m) 
  • £9 to Spain: London Stansted to Zaragoza (Ryanair, January 22, 1245-1555, 2h10m) 
  • £9 to Sweden: London Stansted to Gothenburg (Ryanair, January 25, 1845-2140, 1h55m) 

Checked by MailOnline on Skyscanner at about 10am today. Flight arrival and departures times are local.

Stephanie Boyle, Skyscanner’s global travel industry expert, told MailOnline: ‘This news will go a long way towards boosting confidence for travellers who are hoping to visit loved ones overseas or book a holiday in 2022. 

‘We expect to see a surge in demand from UK holidaymakers following the scrapping of pre-departure testing and self-isolation requirements, especially given the timing which aligns with a traditionally busy time for travel. 

‘Winter-weary workers returning this week after the festive period tend to want something to look forward to and will be keen to book breaks in the short term as well as planning bigger trips for the summer.’ 

She added: ‘We have more information on what we can expect from a calendar year living with the virus now and many will be planning big trips for the summer when traditionally we have seen fewer restrictions. 

‘The travel industry has proved its agility and resistance through difficult times and will be hoping for these new simpler rules to remain in place without change to continue the safe and sustained return of travel.’

The current travel testing rules were introduced in November last year amid a global panic over the spread of Omicron – but with the variant now dominant in the UK, many questioned why they remained.

Mr Johnson told the Commons that from this weekend, costly post-arrival PCR tests would be replaced with cheaper rapid swabs for the fully vaccinated.

Travellers must buy the post-arrival lateral flow tests from private providers before returning to England. They cannot use free NHS ones.

Tests which previously needed to be taken within 72 hours of travelling to England have also been axed. 

This change came into force at 4am today, whereas the replacement of PCRs with lateral flows post-arrival will come into effect at 4am on Sunday.

The new rules will apply only to those who have been fully vaccinated – which means double, rather than triple-jabbed.

Children aged five to 17 will be treated as fully vaccinated even if they are not, meaning they must also take day two post-arrival lateral flow tests.  Under-fives are exempt. 

The changes apply only to England, with Scotland and Northern Ireland yet to declare if they will follow suit. In Wales, health minister Eluned Morgan said they would be ‘reluctantly’ following suit.

Mr Johnson said: ‘When the Omicron variant was first identified, we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country.

‘But now Omicron is prevalent, these measures are having limited impact on the growth in cases, while continuing to incur significant costs to our travel industry.’

The changes come just in time for the travel industry, with January traditionally the busiest period for summer holiday bookings.

A British Airway aircraft comes in to land at London Heathrow Airport yesterday evening as the rule changes were announced

A British Airway aircraft comes in to land at London Heathrow Airport yesterday evening as the rule changes were announced

An aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow Airport last night as Boris Johnson announced a relaxing of travel testing rules

An aircraft comes in to land at Heathrow Airport last night as Boris Johnson announced a relaxing of travel testing rules

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the House of Commons yesterday where he announced changes to the travel rules

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to the House of Commons yesterday where he announced changes to the travel rules

What will the new travel rules be for UK tourists? 

If you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England (meaning at least 14 days has passed since your second jab), and you will arrive in England from today (Friday, January 7), you do not need to:

  • Take a Covid test before you travel to England
  • Quarantine when you arrive in England

If you qualify as fully vaccinated and will arrive in England after 4am this Sunday (January 9), you can choose to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test after you arrive in England.

If you take a lateral flow test and test positive, you will need to self-isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR.

You must book the test before you travel to England. You can book lateral flows from today.

You must take the lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after arriving. For example, if you arrive on a Monday, this would be by the end of the Wednesday.

You cannot use a lateral flow until after 4am this Sunday. Before this time, you must use a PCR test after arrival. 

The fully vaccinated rules also apply to children aged 17 and under, people taking part in an approved vaccine trial, and people who are unable to have a vaccination due to medical reasons. Click here for more details

Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association trade body, said: ‘This is a long- overdue and welcome step back to the pre-Omicron regime. It’s clear that the extra measures had little or no impact on the spread on this new variant.’

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘Travellers can now book with confidence and look forward to reconnecting with loved ones and business colleagues. Meanwhile… vital testing capacity can be reallocated where it is needed the most – in hospitals, schools and crucial national infrastructure.’

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the industry body Airlines UK, said it would be a ‘massive boost’ for the sector at a ‘critical’ time of the year.

‘People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed,’ he said.

‘Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.’

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren also welcomed the move but said the Government needed to go further.

‘This will make travel much simpler and easier and means our customers can book and travel with confidence,’ he said.

‘However, the Government must now urgently take the final step towards restriction-free travel and remove the last remaining unnecessary test for vaccinated travellers so flying does not become the preserve of the rich.’ 

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said: ‘Although this is welcome news, there is still a long way back for aviation which remains the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, supporting millions of jobs in all four nations.’

NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel, and the tests must be brought from a private provider. 

Those who have already brought PCR tests for travelling needs can still use these.

Julia Simpson, chief of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said: ‘The removal of pre-departure tests and replacing Day 2 PCRs with more affordable antigen testing will significantly boost the UK travel and tourism sector and help both it, and the whole UK economy recover much faster than expected.’ 

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