The UK government has announced that people who have had two doses of the Covid vaccine will be able travel into England from ‘amber’ countries without quarantining, although they will still need to be tested. Jenny Southan reports
From July 19, 2021, returning UK residents who have been double vaccinated will no longer need to quarantine in England if they are coming from a country on the “amber” list. (Those coming from “green” list countries are already exempt, although those travelling from “red” list countries will still need to self-isolate in a designated hotel.)
However, they will still need to pay for PCR tests before leaving and on day two of their arrival back in England. This is an improvement, though, on the requirement to self-isolate and pay for additional tests on day eight (and day five, which is optional as part of the “Test to Release” scheme).
How do people prove they have been double jabbed? They will need to be able to show their status on the NHS app or via a letter obtained from their GP by calling 119 in advance.
Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, said a full vaccination means “14 days have passed since your final dose of the vaccine” – and only vaccines given by the UK National Health Service will count, meaning people who have been vaccinated overseas will not benefit from the exemption.
Shapps said: “In essence, this means that for fully vaccinated travellers the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same.” Scotland and Wales are yet to decide whether or not the will adopt the same rules as England.
On July 19, government guidance that people should not travel to amber list countries will be removed but it should be noted that amber list countries could still turn red, which means even “Vaccine VIPs” will still be playing “holiday roulette”.
At the moment, countries on the amber list include France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand, Sweden and the US.
However, consumers also need to check the rules that each of these countries apply before travelling as some require quarantines on arrival or are even (in the case of the US) banning tourists from the UK.
Virginia Messina, senior vice-president for the World Travel and Tourism Council, commented on the news, saying: “Holidaymakers and the travel and tourism sector will breathe a sigh of relief now that quarantine-free holidays have been given the green light by the government for those that have been fully jabbed.
“While it’s a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before holidays become truly affordable – and accessible. The requirement for PCR tests to return from amber list countries will remain, pricing out many hard-working families from being able to take holidays abroad.
“And though it’s great news for the double jabbed and under-18’s who also are exempt from quarantines, it still leaves more than one in three UK adults who’ve only received a single dose, forced into quarantine when they arrive back in the UK from an amber list country.
“Countries must take a co-ordinated and harmonised approach and align policies to avoid confusion among holidaymakers who need easy to understand rules and regulations more than ever before.”
Meanwhile, David Trunkfield, hospitality and leisure leader at PwC UK, says: “Today’s announcement provides further clarity for consumers who have been left unsure by recent advice on travelling. The removal of the need to quarantine for those who are fully vaccinated and returning from amber list countries will be welcomed by many, and should provide a much needed boost to the industry; however, [in a survey we conducted earlier in June 2021] consumers said quarantine was not the only barrier to travel.
“Fear of getting Covid, changing government guidance and the need for testing, as well as possible destination restrictions, continue to hamper bookings for holidays abroad in 2021 and will continue to factor into decision making.
“Whilst we found that younger consumers are the most willing to travel, adults under 35 are least likely to be fully vaccinated and therefore the removal of the need to quarantine will not benefit them in the short term. Nevertheless, today’s news should lead to an increase for outbound bookings, with the prospect of a stronger market into September and beyond.”