What could new rules for vaccinated travellers mean for your summer holiday?

·4-min read
Holidays abroad could be about to get more appealing (PA Archive)
Holidays abroad could be about to get more appealing (PA Archive)

In potentially welcome news for holidaymakers and the travel industry, the government is reportedly considering scrapping the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries.

The move, reported by the Daily Telegraph, would mean tourists and business travellers could visit amber destinations without having to self-isolate for 10 days on their return to the UK.

A government spokesperson said work has begun to “consider the role of vaccinations” for inbound travel following the continued success of the jab’s rollout, while travel consultant Paul Charles claimed the new rules are expected to come into effect by “late July”.

What could this relaxation of restrictions mean for you summer holiday? Here’s what we know so far.

What are the current rules for vaccinated travellers entering the UK?

Currently, vaccination status has no bearing on the rules for inbound travellers arriving in the UK.

The government introduced a “traffic light” system for travel in May, classifying countries as red, amber or green according to risk of coronavirus reimportation, with restrictions of varying severity to match.

The vast majority of the world’s countries have been put in the amber category, including the US and most of Europe, necessitating a total of three Covid tests for travellers entering the UK, plus a 10-day quarantine at home.

Countries classified as green have the lightest measures for inbound passengers – requiring one pre-departure and one post arrival Covid test with no quarantine – but only 11 destinations, none of which are mainstream tourism spots, are currently on the list.

Meanwhile, 50 destinations have been put on the “red list” – only British residents are allowed into the UK from these countries, and they must pre-book an 11-night hotel quarantine package prior to arrival, at a cost of £1,750 per solo traveller.

The cost includes private transfers to a government-mandated hotel, full-board accommodation and two Covid PCR tests to be taken on days two and eight of quarantine.

What might be changing?

Government ministers are said to be mulling a change in the rules for fully vaccinated travellers.

Though nothing has been said about red list requirements, holidaymakers returning to the UK from amber list countries would no longer be subject to quarantine.

If implemented, the change could help facilitate holidays to Spain, Greece, Italy and other popular tourist destinations, minus the onerous restrictions upon return to the UK.

Various countries have already scrapped quarantine, and in some cases even testing requirements, for fully vaccinated visitors.

For example, Brits travelling to Greece need not present a pre-departure test if they can show proof of full vaccination.

When could this change come into effect?

The government has been tight-lipped on the subject, with a spokesperson merely confirming that “we have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel.”

Industry expert and travel consultant Paul Charles has predicted that the measure will be approved in a “milestone review” on 28 June, coming into effect in “late July”.

However, as has been noted after the previous traffic light review flew in the face of all predictions, there are no guarantees when it comes to the government’s stance on international travel.

Would vaccinated travellers still need to be tested?

Almost certainly yes, although there are no concrete details as yet. At present, all travellers departing for the UK must present a negative Covid test (PCR/rapid antigen/lateral flow) prior to departure.

Green list arrivals then need only take one PCR test within two days of arrival, while amber and red list travellers need to take a package of two PCR tests on days two and eight of self-isolation.

It could be that vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries still have to take two tests, or they may be able to follow the green list one-test model instead.

What does the travel industry say?

Travel companies are already responding positively to the potential relaxation of the rules.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “This is very welcome news and should represent a meaningful restart to international travel in the very near future. The vaccination programme was designed to protect people from coronavirus so that they can enjoy their freedoms once again.

“If people have received two doses of the vaccine and are still not allowed to travel overseas to enjoy their holidays, what is the purpose of the vaccination programme? The rollout has been a huge success, so it is time for us all to enjoy the benefits of that.”

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