Although the United Kingdom has one of the world’s most rapid vaccination programmes, the government has effectively blocked travel to most nations through quarantine and testing requirements, forcing the industry to warn of several business failures and job losses.
In a boost for a travel sector devastated by the epidemic, Britain will publish proposals next month to allow fully vaccinated persons to travel freely to all countries except those with the highest COVID-19 risk.
Airlines applauded the decision, which was further cheered by news late Thursday that the United Kingdom will add Malta, Spain’s Balearic Islands, and the Portuguese island of Madeira to its “green list” of safe travel destinations as of June 30.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps said, “Thanks to our successful vaccination programme, our intention is that later in the summer UK residents who are fully vaccinated will not have to isolate when travelling from amber list countries.”
“We’ll set out further details next month,” Shapps tweeted.
“The Department for Transport declined to say if the easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers would take place in a matter of weeks or months.
The news was welcomed by British Airways (ICAG.L) and Jet2.com (JET2.L).
On Wednesday, pilots, cabin crew, travel agents, and other industry workers protested, urging the government to open additional flights, while BA, easyJet, and TUI backed a court case challenging the government’s travel rules.
“We cannot afford another missed summer,” said BA chairman and chief executive officer Sean Doyle in a statement.
“There are jobs at stake, Britons separated from family members and we cannot afford to allow the success of our vaccine programme to be wasted.”
EasyJet chief executive officer Johan Lundgren commented: “The science shows that travel to many European countries would have very little impact on hospitalisation and this is even more the case now given that COVID cases in Europe have declined.”
As the busy holiday season of July and August approaches, the government is under increasing pressure to relax regulations.
Shapps said, Eritrea, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mongolia, Tunisia, and Uganda would be added to the UK’s red list of countries with the strictest travel restrictions.
Israel will be added to the green watchlist, which means it might be demoted to the amber list, requiring travellers to isolate upon their return.
Any greater reopening of travel from the UK will be met with a new obstacle, as European destinations may begin to impose entry restrictions.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, stated on Wednesday that she would prefer European countries to compel anyone entering from the United Kingdom to undergo quarantine, as Germany does, noting the UK’s high prevalence of the more contagious Delta variant.