Fully Vaccinated Britons Could Travel Abroad Quarantine-Free
- Fully vaccinated Britons could travel to amber list countries without needing to quarantine on return to the UK.
- UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock says changes will not be implemented ‘right now’ and could be August before changes are employed.
- Ryanair taking legal action against the UK Government regarding how countries are categorised into the traffic light system – Scottish airports have also called for greater transparency.
- A rise in UK staycations expected to bring a GBP 22 billion boost to UK tourism
- UK travel to the US could be eased by the end of the summer
Fully vaccinated Britons could soon travel to amber list countries without the need to self-isolate on their return to the UK. The new rule would mean travellers could visit hundreds of popular holiday destinations such as Spain, the US, France and Italy quarantine-free. Under current travel regulations, all travellers visiting amber countries need to quarantine for 10 ten days on their return to the UK. Travellers are currently advised not to travel to amber list countries, though there is no legal enforcement in place.
Whilst the news of quarantine-free holidays is excellent for those looking to travel abroad this summer, the UK Health Secretary stated the changes would not be implemented ‘right now’. No definitive timeline has been revealed, though reports indicate that quarantine-free travel for ‘double-jabbers’, which includes over 30 million Britons, could occur by August.
The UK government has been heavily criticised by Conservative backbenchers, many of whom disagreed with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to delay the reopening of the UK economy on 21st June by four weeks.
The proposal and the review of the UK’s traffic light system, categorising abroad holiday destinations by the level of risk, is likely to come under consideration over the next two weeks. A UK government spokesperson stated that there were many aspects to finalise and are unlikely to finish by the end of the month.
The news follows research conducted by Public Health England (PHE) that a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 96% effective against the Delta COVID variant while the AstraZeneca vaccine was 92% effective.
The research prompted Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade to comment that fully vaccinated passengers could be safely excused from quarantine restrictions from green and amber countries. Two-thirds of UK adults are anticipated to be fully vaccinated by 19th July; it’s been argued that quarantine-free travel should be in force as soon as possible to help ‘save the summer’.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, suggested that the UK follow in the footsteps of the US and EU, who are already reducing restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye further commented that the freedom to travel could provide Britons with further incentive to get vaccinated.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, stated that no options are currently being ruled out for the full resumption of UK travel abroad and the option of ‘vaccine passports’ would be assessed cautiously. Mr Norman stated that with the rise of the Delta COVID variant, it would not be prudent to make a carte blanche statement regarding new travel rules.
Significant reduction in Europeans looking to travel abroad this year
A key priority for the airline industry is to help rebuild passenger demand and confidence amid the coronavirus pandemic. Recent data has revealed a significant decline in the number of Europeans looking to take a summer holiday abroad this year.
A Euro Assistance poll revealed that 57% of Europeans plan on travelling abroad this summer, which is down by 6% compared to 2019. Individual European countries are seeing significant drops in those looking to travel overseas, such as Germany, which is down 21%, the UK 14% and Belgium 12%. That being said, both the UK and Belgium are optimistic regarding future travel arrangements, with many anticipating that travel would return to normal by 2022/23. 70% of Europeans predict that regular travel will return in the next three years.
The UK has seen a dramatic rise in the number of ‘staycations’ this year, with more families looking to holiday at home. A staycations 2021 report conducted by Collier forecast that the rise in individuals holidaying in the UK this year would lead to a GBP 22 billion boost in UK tourism. Their research indicates that UK travellers spent a total of GBP 54.8 billion on holidays abroad in 2019. It’s anticipated that many will use their savings to put towards luxurious domestic experiences such as room upgrades and spa treatments.
The report outlines that the UK’s top staycation destinations include the likes of Bournemouth, Eastbourne, Plymouth, Brighton, Bath, Norwich, Blackpool and Southampton.
Ryanair taking legal action against the UK Government
Budget airline Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG) are taking legal action against the UK Government due to a lack of transparency over how overseas holiday destinations are categorised into the traffic light system.
Leading Sage member Professor Neil Ferguson branded the UK government’s current travel restrictions as ‘ineffective window dressing’, which they should either tighten or abandon.
Concerns amongst airlines were raised after the UK government failed to move the Balearics to the green list after Germany deemed it safe to travel. Jet2 CEO Steve Heapy labelled the UK’s decision as ‘bewildering’ whilst MAG CEO Charlie Cornish stated that EU countries appeared to be taking a more positive approach to the resumption of travel.
Michael O’Leary is calling for the UK government to show greater transparency over the process of moving countries to the green list, publish the criteria for the full resumption of international travel or acknowledge that extended lockdown restrictions are limiting people’s freedom of movement.
Mr O’Leary highlighted that although the UK has been much more successful at administering COVID-19 vaccines than the EU, Europeans appear to have a more well thought out approach to restarting travel abroad.
A UK government spokesperson responded to the grievances by acknowledging that this is a difficult period for the travel industry but that the priority was to safeguard public health. It was further highlighted that GBP 7 billion had been provided to the airline industry as financial support during the coronavirus pandemic but could not comment on the legal proceedings.
Scottish airports have also backed Ryanair’s case, believing the decision to move Portugal from the green list to the amber list as a political decision rather than based on public health motives.
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that there would be a review of current COVID restrictions in Scotland. However, there is unlikely to be any further easing of lockdown restrictions in the country before 28th June.
The travel industry has become one of the most impacted sectors by coronavirus globally, with continued restrictions imposed by the UK government, placing further strain on the industry.
This week, Emirates reported their highest financial loss in over 30 years, confirming a USD 6 billion loss for the year ending 21st March.
The loss is a stark contrast to the previous year’s performance, with the airline reporting a USD 288 million profit. The airline also confirmed that passenger numbers collapsed by up to 90% throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael O’Leary stated that the UK government’s ‘stop go-stop-go-stop policy’ inflicts further damage to the aviation industry and disrupts travel plans for millions of British families, arguing the policy as mismanagement of international travel.
UK/US Travel corridor hoped to resume in September
America’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, yesterday stated that US/UK citizens could potentially travel more freely between the two countries by September. However, he was unable to give a specific date. With vaccinations being rolled out rapidly, Dr Fauci stated that both the UK and the US would be in a favourable position to resume safe travel.
Asked if the Delta COVID variant could delay travel prospects between the UK and US, Dr Fauci commented that it is fortunate that the variant appears to be sensitive to coronavirus vaccines. Dr Fauci also outlined the possibility that highly vaccinated countries such as the US, UK and most of Europe could see COVID-19 kept under control by September 2022 but was solely dependent on continued successful vaccinations.