In welcome news for holidaymakers and the travel industry, the government is planning to scrap the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals from amber list countries – potentially from as soon as 19 July.
The move, confirmed by Boris Johnson during a recent press conference, will mean double-jabbed tourists and business travellers can visit amber destinations without having to self-isolate for 10 days on their return to the UK.
During a briefing from Number 10, the prime minister said: “We will maintain our tough border controls including the red list, and recognising the protection afforded by two doses of vaccine, we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country.”
Mr Johnson added that the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, would provide a further update “later this week.”
What could this relaxation of restrictions mean for your 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 the 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 27 destinations are currently on the list. Sixteen of these are on the green watchlist, including Madeira and the Balearic Islands, meaning they’re at risk of turning amber at any time.
Meanwhile, 56 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 is changing?
The government is planning to change the rules for fully vaccinated travellers.
Though red list requirements will stay the same, holidaymakers returning to the UK from amber list countries will no longer be subject to quarantine.
When implemented, the measure could help facilitate holidays to Spain, Greece, Italy and other popular tourist destinations, minus the onerous restrictions upon return to the UK.
Ministers are reportedly discussing whether the easing of restrictions could be introduced from as early as 19 July, according to The Times.
The entry requirements for double jabbed arrivals would mimic those of green list countries.
A previous Department for Transport (DfT) statement, released at the most recent traffic light travel review on 24 June, read: “In recognition of our successful domestic vaccination programme, and as part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s checkpoint review, our intention is that later in the summer, arrivals who are fully vaccinated will not have to quarantine when travelling from amber list countries.
“We expect this to occur in phases, starting with UK residents. They will still be required to take a pre-departure test and a test on day two, and any positive results will be sequenced to continue to manage the risk of importing variants.”
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 officially been tight-lipped on the subject, with a DfT statement merely saying it would be introduced “later in the summer”.
However, information leaked to The Times and The Sun strongly indicates that the rule relaxation could be timed to coincide with so-called “Freedom Day”, 19 July, when all remaining social distancing and mask laws are dropped in England.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to annouce further details later this week.
Would vaccinated travellers still need to be tested?
Yes: the DfT has stated that vaccinated amber list arrivals will be subject to the same testing requirements as those entering the UK from green list destinations. They will still be required to take a pre-departure test, which must be negative before they’re allowed to travel to the UK, plus a PCR test within two days of entering the country.
What does the travel industry say?
Some 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.”