England drops quarantine for double-vaccinated travellers from EU and US

Boris Johnson concerned UK not opening up to world as quickly as other countries

A passenger arrives at Heathrow Airport in London on July 10, 2020.
Powered by automated translation

Follow the latest updates on the Covid-19 pandemic here

England will drop quarantine restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers arriving from the EU and US from next week.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said any passenger coming from America or Europe who had received a Covid-19 vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or the US Food and Drug Administration could benefit from the initiative.

Such travellers would still have to undergo pre-departure Covid-19 screening and take another test two days after landing in England.

Those immunised in the US will also need to provide proof of US residency.

However, the changes do not include people who have received those approved vaccines but are in a red-list country.

The changes will come into effect at 4am British Summer Time, on Monday.

“We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel and today is another important step forward,” Mr Shapps said.

“Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade – this is progress we can all enjoy. We will, of course, continue to be guided by the latest scientific data but thanks to our world-leading domestic vaccination programme, we’re able to look to the future and start to rebuild key transatlantic routes with the US while further cementing ties with our European neighbours.”

Mr Shapps said the government would drop quarantine requirements for other countries at a later date.

“The third stage is looking at what happens in other countries, particularly where we can rely on their data and rely on their vaccine that they’re using,” he told Sky News.

“We’ll be looking at that next month in August and opening that up when it’s practical and safe to do.”

The government announced international cruises sailings from England would also resume from next week, with passengers to be warned of the risks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the country could “safely enjoy our freedoms again” thanks to its inoculation programme.

“By reopening quarantine-free travel for travellers who have been fully vaccinated in European countries and the USA, we’re taking another step on the road to normality which will reunite friends and families and give UK businesses a boost,” he said.

Earlier, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was in talks with Washington about opening up a quarantine-free travel corridor between the US and England.

Most British nationals are barred from entering the US if they have been in the UK in the previous 14 days, but this could change if the two countries set up a travel corridor.

“We want people to be able to come from the US freely in a way that they normally do. We’re talking to them the whole time,” Mr Johnson told LBC radio.

“At the moment we’re dealing with a Delta wave, the US is dealing with a Delta wave, but be assured that we are on it the whole time. As soon as we have something to say about travel corridors you’ll be hearing from us.”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said the leaders were keen to travel between the two countries.

“This was discussed between the president of the United States and the prime minister, so it should be no surprise if we are looking at ways at how we can facilitate travel,” she said.

“The most important thing is to make sure our borders are safe, the public are safe in the UK and we don’t waste the sacrifice the public have made. That’s why we want the focus on how people here can be vaccinated, but also considering opportunities about how we can reopen the economy, but also potentially for people coming from abroad.”

Mr Johnson suggested vaccine passports could become mandatory in various settings throughout British society.

“I think it’s a very positive thing to do, to go and get a vaccine,” he said.

“People can obviously see, when you look at things like travel, like mass events, that it’s going to be one of those things that will help you, not hinder you.”

It is expected those who do not live in the EU or the US could be allowed quarantine-free travel at a later date.

Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the main opposition Labour party, said dropping quarantine rules was unwise.

“I think at the moment everybody wants to go on holiday and go back to normal as quickly as possible, but this is reckless,” she said.

The arrangement would apply only to England at this stage, but ministers are understood to be in talks with the devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The aviation industry had been pushing the government to drop quarantine requirements for travellers from the EU and US after a trial of checking passengers’ vaccination status.

Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said the 10-day pilot programme had been a success, with 250 fully immunised travellers presenting their documents on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens this month.

The companies said 99 per cent of the documents were verified as authentic. Two passengers had their credentials rejected.

One passenger had a different name on their vaccination card than on their passport, while another had been fully immunised less than 14 days before departure.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the trial provided evidence that fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries should be allowed to travel to the UK without self-isolating.

“The UK needs to safely reopen its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme,” he said.

Heathrow Airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “The vaccine has been a miracle of science, and these trials have shown that we can allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and US to visit the UK without quarantine.”

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, a travel PR consultancy, said the plan was the “dawn of a consistent global policy” for the UK.

Mr Shapps has previously expressed concern about the vaccine certificates issued in the US, saying it had a paper-based system that differed from state to state. The EU uses a digital Covid-19 certificate.

UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said last week that the government was keen to strike deals to allow quarantine travel from a range of countries.

“Because we are working at speed, at the moment it is UK nationals and citizens who have had UK vaccinations who will be able to travel to amber-list countries, other than France, and come back and not quarantine,” he said.

“We want to offer the same reciprocity as the 33 countries that recognise our app, and that will also happen very soon.”

Updated: July 29, 2021, 6:50 AM