COVID: UK reopens quarantine free travel for EU and US
- UK government reopens travel for fully jabbed US and EU travellers
- Reopening quarantine free travel for EU and US travellers’ sparks fears over COVID health risk
- Travellers arriving into the UK from France will still be required to self-isolate
- International cruises set to restart from England
- Wizz Air expects summer capacity to return to pre-pandemic levels
The UK government has confirmed that from August 2nd, they will allow fully vaccinated travellers from the US and the EU to travel to England without self-isolating upon arrival.
It is a long-awaited boost for the aviation and travel industries – plagued by coronavirus restrictions for 16 months.
Under current travel rules, UK travellers who have received both COVID jabs can avoid quarantining upon returning to Britain from all “amber” destinations, except France.
France is the only EU member state exempt from the new UK quarantine rules. Ministers said they added France to Britain’s “amber plus” list due to the growing prevalence of the Beta variant of COVID-19 in the country, which is not prominent in the UK.
However, the French government has accused the UK of imposing “discriminatory and excessive” quarantine rules against French citizens.
Downing Street is believed to be reviewing restrictions against France, which could see the country relocated to the amber list at the upcoming travel announcement.
Nonetheless, the rule change for the US and the rest of the EU will help reunite family and friends whose loved ones live overseas.
However, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that only fully vaccinated travellers who received their final COVID vaccine 14 days before arrival will be allowed to bypass quarantine rules.
Mr Shapps said that these passengers will still need to present a lateral flow or PCR pre-departure test to border authorities upon arrival and take a PCR test the day after they arrive.
Under 18s will not need to quarantine or take a coronavirus test, depending on their age.
It comes as GOV.uk reports an additional 27,734 coronavirus cases in Britain on Wednesday, taking the seven-day rolling average to 376.5 per 100,000 people.
While Wednesday’s figures concluded seven consecutive days of declines, it is significantly lower than numbers reported the same day the previous week, when 39,906 COVID cases were recorded.
Another 91 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were identified on Wednesday, taking the total number of fatalities with COVID-19 on the death certificate to 153,342.
Still, the UK Transport Secretary said that the Global Travel Taskforce (GTT) would review advice on travel rules at the end of the week as the infection rate has improved and hospitalisations and deaths remain low.
Britain’s cautious approach to reopening international travel has been heavily criticised by airlines and travel firms, who warned the UK government that failure to restart travel sustainably risks Britain’s aviation sector falling behind the EU’s.
UK aviation industry welcomes new travel rules
British airlines had accused the UK government of “squandering” its lead in the coronavirus vaccine rollout due to being too slow to reopen international travel.
Today, they welcomed the news that EU and US travellers would be allowed to enter the UK without being required to quarantine from August 2nd, noting that this will help kickstart the industry’s recovery.
Airline bosses also cheered news that fully vaccinated British travellers would be allowed to return from amber list countries without having to self-isolate.
Currently, the new rules are only operating in England but are expected to follow suit in Scotland and Wales over the coming month.
The move comes after airlines such as British Airways, Ryanair and EasyJet announce record losses due to the impact from COVID-19.
British Airways owner, International Airlines Group (IAG), recorded an annual operating loss of GBP 6.4BN in Q1 2021.
BA Chief Executive Sean Doyle stated: “This step will allow us to reunite loved ones and get Global Britain back in business, giving the economy the vital boost it so badly needs.”
While IAG has welcomed the UK government’s move, they said that targeted support is needed to help the industry recover in the wake of reduced demand.
US airlines, such as Delta and United Airlines, are expected to ramp up flights to London Heathrow now that the lucrative UK-US travel corridor is set to reopen.
The United States and the European Union are Britain’s biggest market for visitor volumes, so the resumption of travel between these nations will help British travel and tourism firms drum up business after a year-and-a-half of pandemic-linked restrictions.
Airlines shares surged in the wake of the news, with British Airways up by more than 4% and TUi 2.44% higher on Thursday.
Hungarian ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air jumped by 7% following the announcement and expects passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in August.
Wizz Air sees a return to pre-COVID passenger levels in August
Wizz Air CEO József Váradi said he expects the airline’s passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels next month despite some coronavirus travel restrictions still being in place across Europe.
Airlines have struggled to recover from the coronavirus pandemic due to different rules and regulations on international travel and closed borders.
However, Wizz Air believes it will be the first major European airline to return to total capacity as we turn our back on the COVID pandemic.
Despite suffering a GBP 97M loss in Q2 2021, CEO Varadi said he expects the budget airline to operate at 90% of its pre-pandemic capacity in July, rising to 100% in August amid increased signs of pent-up demand for foreign holidays.
The airline carried 2.9 million passengers between April and June – four times the amount seen during the same period in 2020 when international travel restrictions were most stringent.
Airlines make most of their profits during the summer holidays, and expectations for a travel boom this season has seen Wizz Air hire 600 new crew members – despite making 1,000 employees redundant and slashing wages in April 2020.
Other European and UK airlines have also become increasingly optimistic about their recovery outlook. Many, including British Airways, EasyJet, and Ryanair, have expanded holiday flight schedules amid signs of a pick up in demand.
Passenger numbers have been steadily increasing on both sides of the English Channel, supported by progress in coronavirus vaccination programmes and the easing of cross-border travel restrictions.
The UK government’s new rule changes will also see international cruising get the green light after a 16-month hiatus.
England lifts international cruise ban
From August 2nd, international cruises will be allowed to restart in England following a 16-month ban.
The UK government said that fully vaccinated people from the US and the EU travelling to the UK by cruise would not have to quarantine upon arrival.
An industry body said the new rules are part of a broader set of measures to reopen international travel between the US and the EU.
Although the British government will amend cruise travel advice to make holiday-goers aware of the risks associated with cruise holidays and responsible for their own safety, tourism agencies, hotels, tour guides and port operators are expected to benefit from the move.
While international cruises have been banned, domestic cruises have been permitted since the UK government reopened travel in May.
Nonetheless, international cruise operators such as P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line have cheered the return of international cruise holidays.
P&O recently announced that its Britannia ship and Iona vessel would relaunch Mediterranean itineraries from September 25th, while travel on the Ventura will reopen in early October.
However, cruises on its Azura vessel have been delayed until December, with some other fleets not expected to return until 2022.
P&O is owned by one of the world’s largest cruise firms, Carnival Corporation, albeit the lucrative business was brought to a standstill when COVID-19 hit and regulators suspended cruise operations due to increased reports of outbreaks on ships.
Today, British Ports Association (BPA) Chief Executive Richard Ballantyne said that the UK had demonstrated how ports and cruise liners could ensure the health and safety of all those aboard after reopening domestic cruises.
Mr Ballantyne added: “I hope that England’s domestic success will encourage the devolved administrations to follow suit and reopen international cruises.”
According to Cruise Lines International Association, the global cruise line industry contributes significantly to global gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for approximately GBP 110BN of global economic output in 2019.
However, US giant Carnival Corporation, which profited USD 3BN alone in 2019, reported stark losses in 2020. Carnival recorded an annual loss of USD 10BN in 2020, with revenues plunging by 73% due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although recent data has shown that Britain’s infection rate is plateauing, experts have warned of the increased risk of transmission on ships due to passengers and crew from different parts of the world mixing.