News

UK to open for double-vaccinated travellers

28 Jul 2021 by Tom Otley
UK border control - image supplied by Heathrow

There are reports today that the UK is planning to reopen for double-vaccinated travellers from both the EU and the United States.

The change in policy, if it is confirmed, could be as early as next week, according to The Times, though The Telegraph is reporting it would be from August 16, 2021.

Initially, the change would be for travellers arriving into England, because of the devolved decision-making on borders. If it comes, the change would see some relief for the travel industry which has been lobbying all year for this change, although the US has this week once again confirmed that the 212(f) Covid travel restrictions will remain in place because of the prevalence of the Delta variant in the UK.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and London Heathrow have confirmed that internationally recognised vaccination statuses can be checked quickly and easily before travellers fly to the UK to allow safe entry to the UK. This would potentially stop long queues at the UK border as vaccination status is checked.

As part of the 10-day trial, fully vaccinated customers on selected flights from Los Angeles, New York, Montego Bay and Athens agreed to share their vaccination status at their departure airport, showing the industry is ready to rapidly adapt and operationalise further vaccination checks, to support a safe reopening of the skies at scale.

Internationally recognised vaccination credentials including CDC cards, New York’s Excelsior Pass and the EU Digital Covid Credential were among the most popular vaccination credentials used by the 250 customers who participated in the trial, alongside NHS certificates.

Key transatlantic routes were handpicked for the trial, recognising the importance of US-UK air links and the urgent need for a transatlantic corridor to re-start business, reunite families and allow people to go on holiday. In the US, more than 163m people have been fully vaccinated – including 60 per cent of US adults, while the UK has fully vaccinated more than 37 million people – including 70 per cent of UK adults.

The airlines and airport say that anonymized data from the trial has been shared with the UK Government ahead of the next traffic light restrictions checkpoint, due by this Saturday. During the 10-day trial, verification checks ensured 99 per cent of credentials were authentic with the remaining one per cent successfully denied where documentation requirements were not met.

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman said: “We are confident that this proving trial provides the evidence the Government needs to allow fully vaccinated customers from low-risk countries to enter the UK, knowing it’s possible to do so smoothly and safely. The UK needs to safely re-open 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.”

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The UK is already falling behind the 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. We urge the UK Government to move the US to the UK’s ‘Green list’ and for the exemption from self-isolation to be extended to all fully vaccinated passengers with WHO-recognised vaccines, beginning with the US and EU. Our proof-of-concept trial demonstrates our readiness as an industry to rapidly operationalise an expanded Amber policy for fully vaccinated travellers, and work with Government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor.”

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow 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. There is now no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from the 31st July.”

The hope of the travel industry is that if the UK reopens its borders to double vaccinated travellers, it will put some pressure on the US to reciprocate. Martin Ferguson, VP of Global Communications & Public Affairs, American Express Global Business Travel, said that the move by the US to confirm the 212(f) restrictions was “a major blow”.

“The presence of the Delta variant in the US shows that keeping in place the outdated, unsystematic restrictions from the previous administration is ineffective. Prohibiting travellers from countries with higher vaccination rates and lower case numbers while welcoming travellers from Covid “hotspots” is not a sensible approach to protecting public health.”

“We urge the Biden administration to take a science-driven approach and lift the ban on UK/EU travel. Other countries have proven that you can reopen international travel while safeguarding public health through a data-driven, science-based approach. Failing to do so flies in the face of the administration’s commitment to being guided by the science.”

Update

The news has just been confirmed this afternoon

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