Vaccinated Travelers Set to Be Freed From U.K. Isolation Rules
British travelers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to isolate when they return home from moderate risk countries, under a plan officials expect to come into force this month.
Ministers have been working on an overhaul of pandemic rules for foreign trips to give more freedom to fully vaccinated passengers returning to England from destinations on the government’s “amber list.”
Instead of isolating at home for 10 days, travelers will be told to take Covid tests after arrival under the new rules, which are due to be finalized on Thursday and could take effect as soon as July 19, people familiar with the matter said.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will set out the measures in a statement to the U.K. Parliament. He will also detail how the new rules will affect under-18s who are not currently being vaccinated.
If, as expected, the relaxation in the rules comes into force from July 19, it will be in time for England’s state school holidays, offering a boost to the ailing travel industry which has struggled with lockdowns and closed borders for more than a year.
“Double vaccination is a great liberator,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in evidence to a committee in Parliament on Wednesday. “In principle and in practice, it’s going to be great.”
Read more: U.K. Is Easing Covid Rules, Bringing Businesses Fresh Concerns
Under existing rules on foreign travel, visitors to more than 100 destinations including the vital U.S. market and some of the most popular European destinations are required to isolate for 10 days on their return to the U.K.
That’s because these destinations are on the government’s “amber list,” rated as medium risk for coronavirus. The government currently advises Britons not to travel to destinations on the amber list or the high risk red list, with only a handful of countries judged to be safe enough to put on the green list.
Johnson and his team are grappling with how best to reopen the economy now that 65% of U.K. adults have received both doses of Covid vaccines. Yet even as the rollout of shots continues, a surge in infections from the delta variant is complicating the government’s efforts to lift restrictions.
On Wednesday, 32,548 people tested positive for Covid-19, and another 33 deaths were recorded. Officials have suggested that infections could be running as high as 100,000 new cases a day later this summer, though the government has so far refused to say how many extra deaths are expected to result from lifting restrictions.
While most pandemic restrictions in England will end July 19, the requirement to isolate if a person has been in contact with a positive case will continue until Aug. 16.
Read more: How England’s Coronavirus Rules are Changing From July 19
That delay to ending the isolation requirement for “close contacts” has fueled concern that millions of people will be forced to stay at home, damaging efforts to reopen businesses.
On Wednesday, Johnson defended his policy on self-isolation, saying the government needed to “balance” the risks. “This is a highly contagious disease. We have to do what we can to stop its spread,” he said.
Kate Nicholls, boss of trade body UKHospitality, said the sector was suffering “carnage” and the delay to ditching the isolation rules will discriminate against the younger workforce who will not have been offered both doses of the vaccines by Aug. 16.
“With cases predicted to continue to rise, this means that hospitality’s recovery after 16 months of lockdown and severely disrupted trading will be harmed,” she said.