Travelers from the EU and the United States who are fully vaccinated may now enter Breat Britain without having to self-isolate as of August 2 as UK officials abolished the quarantine as of that date. The news came on Wednesday afternoon after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning.
In a sea change that will affect not only travelers from these countries but the fortunes of British air carriers as well, the nixing of quarantine requirements comes as a welcome relief to many, who have been duly vaccinated but who did not want the inconvenience of having to quarantine after arriving in Britain.
In what is a relatively minor inconvenience, however, travelers from these countries will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before their arrival in England and then a subsequent PCR test on or before the second day after they have landed.
The UK’s Covid Operations Committee made the decision, about which more detail will be forthcoming, according to government sources. Transport Secretary Grant Schapps also noted that there will be a resumption of international cruises at that time.
The news comes as US health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control, continue to caution against traveling to the UK as the Delta variant is rampant there. It is also unknown if other nations of the UK, including Scotland, will adopt this change in coronavirus protection measures.
UK abolishes quarantine as US still bars British travelers
Accordingly, the US border is still closed to all those residing in the UK, regardless of vaccination status, unless they are US citizens.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said earlier that talks on abolishing the quarantine were taking place between the four nations of the UK.
The British travel industry, hit hard by pandemic restrictions, had been all for the relaxation of quarantine rules since this had been a stumbling block for many travelers when thinking of going to the UK this Summer.
At present, until the new rules take effect, no one who has received their shots in the UK needs to quarantine but all those who received their inoculations elsewhere — even though they may be the exact same vaccine — have had to quarantine.
Travel expert Simon Calder noted in an interview with the BBC “At the moment we’re in this slightly ridiculous situation where if I’m on a plane from Spain, because I’m lucky enough to have had two jabs, once we get to the UK I just wander off, no problem.
“But the person sitting next to me, who happens to have had their vaccinations in Spain, not in the UK, has to go and sit in a room for 10 days. Doesn’t make sense.”
Earlier this week, the US stated that at present there are no plans to lift the ban on UK residents traveling to the country, although a task force has been set up for this purpose.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told British broadcaster LBC on Wednesday that “we’re talking to them the whole time.”
Freddie Julius, the head of a tour company called Tourist England which hosts many customers from overseas, told interviewers that approximately 80% of his tour members are from the US and the EU. “Over the last 18 months we’ve seen almost none,” he complained.
He added that the change in the coronavirus quarantine requirements will be “critical for the revival of the inbound tourism sector.”
However, the constantly-changing landscape of measures, with countries coming on and off the coronavirus safely lists, has been mind-boggling for potential travelers. Any kind of change must be permanent, he remarked, allowing those interested in traveling to the UK to plan ahead for a big trip.
He stated “The constant easing and tightening of restrictions have made it almost impossible to plan ahead, both for tour companies and tourists.”
Before the new ruling was announced, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon had stated that a decision regarding a full reopening up to fully vaccinated travelers from the bloc and the US should only be made when scientific experts deem that it is safe.
He stated that “we don’t know what new variants brought in” could do to the precarious situation at present, when, despite a robust vaccine program, many unvaccinated people are still continuing to contract the mutations of the virus.
He added that the Labour Party is calling for an “international vaccine passport” after agreement is reached with the US, Canada and the EU.
After a rigorous 10-day-long trial of the vaccination status of passengers, many companies in the aviation industry, such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport itself, has been calling for the change as the pandemic continues into its second Summer.
In a statement, the companies and the UK’s largest airport said that 99% of documents had been verified correctly during the trial, which investigated approximately 250 fully-vaccinated participants passing through Heathrow from the United States as well as the Caribbean and Europe.
Just two of the passengers studied had their papers rejected; one because their vaccination was completed less than 14 days before travel, and the other because of a discrepancy between the passport name and the name on the traveler’s vaccine card.
“There’s no reason not to do this,” stated one government advisor on the new changes. Another official expressed concern that an airline might go bankrupt if the measures were not loosened.
British Airways head Sean Doyle stated to interviewers that the trial provides all the evidence that the government must have to allow fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries to travel to the UK without self-quarantine.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye believes that there was “no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from July 31.” EasyJet officials, meanwhile, told interviewers from LBC that the change was “the right thing” but comes just a “little bit too late.”
The opposition holds that the move many be a bit premature at this point. The deputy leader of Labour, Angela Rayner told Sky News that she believed any potential plan to relax the strictures was “reckless,” adding: “We also know that people who have had the vaccine of course can still get the virus so a testing regime is very important and crucial as well.”
At present in the UK, all residents of foreign countries are given a “traffic light” status — red, amber or green, when attempting to enter Britain.
Most countries around the globe, including the US and many EU countries, are still on the amber list. Up until August 2, those originating from those countries will still have to self-quarantine for ten days, with daily checks by telephone from the heath service officials.