After several days of intense speculation, England’s Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that fully vaccinated Americans and Europeans would be allowed to enter England without needing to self-isolate. The current quarantine restrictions will be rolled back at 4 am on August 2.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Shapps said that with the change the government was “helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK”.
To be eligible for the quarantine exemption, travellers from the United States and European Union will need to have received both doses of a two-shot vaccine regimen or the full dose of a single shot vaccine which has been approved by either the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or European Medicines Agency (EMA).
British travellers who were fully vaccinated through the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) have been able to skip quarantine when coming back from Amber List countries since earlier this month. The only exception is France although that is likely to change within days.
British Airways immediately welcomed the news saying the easing of travel restrictions would bring a much-needed boost to the airline industry and wider UK economy.
“Our own trials have proved it’s quick and easy to check travellers are fully vaccinated and can safely enter the UK, and 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,” commented British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle.
“With the UK’s Covid cases falling while vaccinations continue to rise, now is the time for the Government to help secure the re-opening of the crucial UK-US travel corridor, move more low-risk Amber countries to the Green list to allow customers to book with confidence and to review the current expensive testing requirements that are out of step with our neighbours.”
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss also urged the British government to go further by moving the United States to the Green List meaning that unvaccinated Americans would also be free to travel to England without needing to quarantine.
“We now urge UK Government to go further and move the US to the UK’s ‘Green list’ and for the Biden administration to repeal the 212F proclamation for UK travellers,” Weiss said on Tuesday. “The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.”
For now, however, the US-UK air corridor will only be one way. Spooked by the Delta variant and rising cases domestically, the Biden administration has refused to reciprocate and will maintain a travel ban on the UK and Europe for the foreseeable future.
Much of Europe, though, is already open to British travellers and further travel restrictions could be lifted within days.
Some ministers had been wary about reopening to American citizens because the move means accepting cardboard vaccination certificates as there is no central federal vaccination registry.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were able to assuage fears by running a trial that verified the vaccine credentials of American travellers before travel – a key element in preventing bottlenecks at the border.
Travellers will still need to have a pre-departure COVID-19 test, as well as a PCR test on day two after arrivals – a booming industry has popped up offering COVID-19 tests for travel and that is unlikely to be swept away overnight.
More details are yet to be released and there wasn’t any immediate confirmation as to when foreign travellers coming from other Amber List destinations might be able to enter England without needing to isolate.
There was also no detail on when fully vaccinated Brits who received their shots in another country might be able to travel quarantine free.
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.