The British government plans to allow fully vaccinated travellers to return from Amber List countries without the need to quarantine. Sources claim the significant change will be made from July 26 and while the easing of restrictions will only initially apply to British citizens there are plans being drawn up to extend the freedom of quarantine-free travel to other nationalities.
Under the UK government’s Traffic Light travel system, all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must currently self-isolate at home for 10 days when they come from an Amber List country. The isolation period can be reduced to five days but only once an expensive private PCR test has come back negative.
Most of Europe, as well as the United States, are currently classed as Amber List destinations despite the fact that many of these countries have lower infection rates than the UK and vaccination numbers are beginning to catch up with the levels in the UK.
Under the proposals only UK residents who have access to Britain’s National Health Service will be allowed to skip quarantine when the scheme is brought in but government officials are already talking with their counterparts in Europe to extend quarantine-free travel.
Such an agreement will likely require the UK to recognise the EU’s digital Green COVID Certificate that allows European travellers to prove their vaccination status through a scannable QR code. The certificate can also be used to prove COVID-19 test status or recovery from a recent infection.
With the chances of a travel corridor with the United States looking increasingly less likely, sources have told The Times that the focus is now on Europe. Ambassadors in European countries have been told to lobby hard to keep borders open to British travellers despite attempts by Germany’s Angela Merkel to impose a bloc-wide quarantine on UK arrivals.
Opening up international travel to vaccinated passengers will be a welcome and much-needed boost to the aviation industry but the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that it could take travellers as long as six or seven hours to get through immigration if border officials insist on manually checking health documents for every single passenger.
To avoid bottlenecks, the travel industry wants travellers to be able to get their documents approved before they even get to the airport. The industry already has apps and other digital systems in place to facilitate pre-travel approval.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attitude towards international travel has changed drastically in recent days and he is pinning his hopes on the vaccination programme to roll back nearly all pandemic restrictions.
But even with quarantine-free travel on the cards, pre and post-arrival testing might be here to stay and government sources said no final decisions had yet been made.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.