COVID-19: Quarantine-free travel to return in August
- UK government working on plans to allow vaccinated Brits to travel to amber listed destinations
- British Prime Minister warns UK travellers of further “hassle and delays” this summer
- Biden administration relaunch COVID inquiry into origins of the virus
- Former US President Donald Trump reportedly recommended sending infected Americans to Guantánamo Bay
According to UK Health Minister Matt Hancock, the UK government is working on relaxing travel restrictions to offer fully vaccinated Britons greater freedoms when travelling over the coming summer.
Brits can only travel to eleven countries and territories without having to quarantine upon their return to the UK. Popular summer hotspots such as Spain, Italy and Greece are currently on the “amber” list, meaning arrivals from these destinations must self-isolate at home for ten days.
Although Turkey is the only European country on the red list, other popular holiday destinations such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago also feature.
While Britons are not prohibited from travelling to these destinations, many are discouraged by expensive and inconvenient quarantine rules and testing requirements.
As British tourists are the second largest outbound holiday spenders, stop-start travel restrictions have left airlines, airports and other firms in the travel sector reeling from a loss of income.
Airlines and tour operators have taken drastic measures to reduce costs but are still struggling to cope with the economic challenges of COVID-19, which has resulted in thousands of job cuts from the sector.
The UK government has acknowledged the impact stop-start COVID restrictions have had on the industry and said they were working on plans to allow quarantine-free travel to amber-listed destinations for fully vaccinated people.
Fully vaccinated Brits could be allowed to travel to amber countries
On Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK government is working on plans to allow people to holiday abroad this summer.
During an interview, Mr Hancock said: “The whole point of the COVID vaccine programme is to ease lockdown restrictions and give people back their freedoms, rather than be kept safe by coronavirus rules.”
He added: “That’s why the British government continues to stress the importance of receiving COVID jabs.
“While it has not been clinically advised, we are working on a plan to allow fully vaccinated people to adhere to a testing regime rather than quarantine upon their return to the country.”
The UK Health Secretary said that relaxing rules around international travel is more complicated than other COVID-19 restrictions but insisted that Britain is on track to move forward with the final unlocking on July 19th.
His comments follow a newswire report from The Times revealing that the UK is scheduled to announce a change to the UK traffic light system for travel this week.
According to The Times, fully vaccinated Brits could be allowed to travel to “amber” countries without needing to self-isolate upon their return from as early as August.
When asked whether that means those who have received both vaccinations would be allowed to travel to amber destinations this summer, Mr Hancock said that he understood people are desperate to get their freedoms back.
Suppose this is the case; vaccinated Brits would be allowed to travel to holiday hotspots such as Europe and the United States without quarantining for ten days upon arrival in the UK.
However, this would only be if the destination country does not have measures prohibiting Britons from entering the country.
Delta variant: How will this impact summer travel?
Concerns over the prevalence of the Delta variant in the UK has given way to calls for more stringent restrictions to be imposed against British tourists.
Italy has also urged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to relocate the EURO 2020 final – currently set to be held in London – due to the growing number of virus cases in the capital.
On Monday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi suggested that it would be irresponsible to “host the final of the European championships in a country where contagions are proliferating.”
However, COVID passports could be introduced to facilitate travel between Australia and Britain, according to Qantas Airways Limited, the flag carrier of Australia.
According to Qantas’ chief executive, Alan Joyce, COVID vaccine progress in the UK and the US could encourage the Australian government to relax COVID border policy against these markets first.
Currently, arrivals into Australia must self-isolate in government-designated quarantine hotels for two weeks at the cost of:
- AUD 3000 for one adult
- AUD 1000 for each additional adult in the same room or apartment
- AUD 500 for each child aged between three and 18 years
There is no charge for children aged under three years. The Aussie government also does family packages, which costs between AUD 3000 and AUD 5500.
However, the Australian Prime Minister said: “Given the success of the COVID vaccine rollout at home and overseas, it is reasonable to expect that, as time goes on, things will change, including how we manage the virus.”
Still, given that Australians are cancelling appointments to receive their AstraZeneca jabs, this could delay plans for the AU government to lift coronavirus border restrictions.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also changed its guidance for fully vaccinated persons, noting that people who have received two COVID shots don’t have to isolate for 10-14 days upon returning to America.
University of Edinburgh Professor Linda Bauld stated: “As medical experts have reiterated time and time again, this virus isn’t going to just disappear.
“We’re going to have to live alongside it, which means the risk of further transmission later down the line, so being in contact with someone carrying the virus will always be a possibility.”
She highlighted the importance of using the NHS app, which Matt Hancock also stated will be vital in the future, especially with countries wanting tourists to prove their vaccination status before entering.
Mr Hancock noted that six million people have downloaded the primary NHS app and once travel reopens, “we are going to ensure that Brits can prove their COVID vaccine or testing status via the app.”
However, it seems unlikely that plans for international travel will be smooth sailing from here as UK PM Boris Johnson told travellers to expect further delays and inconvenience this year.
Travellers should expect further delays and inconvenience, says UK PM
Although the UK has one of the highest coronavirus vaccination rates globally, with more than 55% of the adult population fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that it would be a challenging year for international travel.
The British Prime Minister said that as the domestic situation takes priority, there will be further “delays and hassle.”
UK ministers have delivered mixed signals about how and when they will lift travel restrictions for more than 12 months now.
Mr Johnson, who was criticised for acting too slow when the COVID pandemic first hit Britain, is now being told that he is “overly cautious” about easing restrictions when most of the adult population has received their coronavirus vaccines.
Although more than 80% of UK adults have been administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine, ministers remain concerned by the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
However, travel firms such as Ryanair, Jet2, EasyJet and TUi have warned ministers that they would not be able to survive another summer slowdown and have demanded the British government to act or provide targeted industry support.
Several EU countries have already given international travel the go-ahead for the summer holidays, with fully vaccinated Brits allowed to enter without quarantining or testing in some destinations.
The UK has refrained from implementing similar measures, which has triggered a backlash from several airlines, including British Airways, which has threatened job cuts and billions in annual pre-tax losses.
Although a Times newspaper article reported that Britain is set to make another travel announcement on Thursday, it remains unclear how families would be able to travel as children have not yet been offered vaccines in the UK.
Nothing has been officially confirmed, but UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said he was supportive of change.
While the global situation is improving, experts have expressed concern over the levelling off of COVID-19 cases, which encouraged US President Joe Biden to relaunch a COVID inquiry into the origin of the virus.
Biden administration probe into COVID origins
The World Health Organisation (WHO) will lead an independent COVID inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 as US intelligence remains divided over whether the virus originated in a Wuhan lab in China or from animal-to-human contact.
Scientists and health officials alike have called for a more rigorous examination of the origins of COVID-19 and warned that China risks “global isolation” if they attempt to block the investigation.
A senior US government official said the Biden administration is looking to exert “diplomatic pressure” on China to gain greater transparency on the matter.
The official added: “Either they will allow, in a responsible way, investigators to do the actual work of figuring out where this came from, or they will face isolation in the international community.
“The global community has taken notice, and we’re going to work together to exert the necessary pressure on Beijing to provide transparent data and access in this case, and China wants to have a role in the global community and global conversations.”
China has lashed out against Washington DC over the inquiry. The deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department, Zhao Lijian, stated it is “improbable” the virus originated from a leak in Wuhan.
Mr Lijian argued that “America is using the pandemic to shift the blame onto China through stigmatisation and political manipulation.”
He added: “Their approach is disrespectful, irresponsible and counterproductive to science, livelihoods and global efforts against COVID-19.”
According to a new revelation about former-US President Donald Trump, during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, he recommended shipping infectious Americans to Guantánamo Bay.
Former US President told US government to ship infectious Americans to Guantánamo Bay
Authors Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta feature a staggering revelation in a new book titled Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History.
According to the two Washington Post reporters, during a White House meeting in February 2020, the former US President suggested sending Americans that had caught the virus to Guantánamo Bay.
In their book, it states that Mr Trump reportedly said: “We import goods. We are not going to import a virus.”
Initially, the United States used Guantánamo Bay as a processing facility for asylum seekers and refugees. However, in 2002 a detention camp was established and was used to imprison terrorist suspects and Muslim militants without trial and in extremely harsh conditions.
There have been several calls from human rights groups for the detention centre – a symbol of torture, injustice and disregard for the rule of law – to be closed down.
According to recent reports, the Biden administration is quietly closing the notorious facility, which is coming up to its 20th anniversary in September.
The book also talks about Donald Trump’s indifference to COVID tests, with the former President reportedly criticising the CDC for developing a test as it would impact his election campaign.