UK Travel Update: Borders Set to Open, No Quarantine Required for Vaccinated
The British government is considering opening to tourists from the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) in a bid to save its tourism industry.
The proposed move would remove quarantine restrictions on vaccinated US and EU tourists from 16 August. A government official called the move “finely balanced,” but one that will bring mass tourism back to the United Kingdom (UK).
The move would benefit millions of people by finally letting them be reunited with family and friends based in the UK, as well as businesses in the aviation and tourism sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
The UK had enforced restrictions on almost all incoming travellers since June 2020, when they introduced a traffic light scheme. The traffic light system grades countries according to their case, variant, and vaccination rates.
The scheme effectively forced travellers from amber and red list countries to quarantine at their own cost in a government hotel or private accommodation. As a result, tourism entering the country has slumped even as the rest of Europe opens for travel.
The British government dropped almost all COVID-19 restrictions on “freedom day” on 19 July. All of the legal requirements, including social distancing and mask-wearing indoors, were lifted.
The move was controversial and attracted criticism from countries around the world. That includes the United States, which placed the United Kingdom on Level 4: Do Not Travel list in response.
Update: On the evening of 28 July, UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps announced on Twitter that travellers from the EU and the US who are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine by EMA and FDA will no longer quarantine starting 02 August.
The Current UK Entry Requirement
The United Kingdom still operates a traffic light system. If you’re coming from a red list country, the government will not allow you to enter the country unless you are a British national or have residency rights.
Even if you’re a fully vaccinated British national, you’ll need to complete a COVID-19 test and book a hotel quarantine package, which will cover another two tests after arrival.
If you’re on a green list country, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. But you won’t need to quarantine if the test is negative.
The United Kingdom has most EU countries and the US on its amber list. If you’re fully vaccinated and from an amber list country, you must take a COVID-19 PCR test on or before day 2 after you arrive. If you’re unvaccinated and from an amber list country, you’ll need to quarantine at a private residence for ten days.
Recently, the government allowed those who have been inoculated by the NHS and can show proof with NHS COVID Pass to skip the self-isolation period of up to 10 days if coming from an amber list country with the exception of travellers from France. This means only those vaccinated in the UK can avail of this measure.
The move came under criticism from British nationals living abroad, who said it benefited a tiny number of people given the NHS is a residency-based system and so British nationals who have moved overseas would still be largely locked out.
The new proposal would mean travellers vaccinated in the EU and the US, as long as the vaccines they received are authorised for use in the UK, would avoid quarantine on arrival in the UK.
The Current COVID-19 Situation in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is the first country to go ahead and bet on its fast vaccination rollout. The country decided to lift all restrictions on life in recent weeks.
Reportedly, the COVID-19 cases have been falling daily in the UK, after weeks of steep climbs due to a surge in the transmission of the Delta variant.
Scientists are debating whether this could be herd immunity at last or whether it’s because of the summer and kids leaving school. Either way, it’s promising for the UK and its travel industry.
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