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Industry welcomes UK government decision to allow vaccinated travellers to avoid quarantine

The UK aviation industry has welcomed the government announcement that vaccinated travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon returning from amber list countries, but has outlined that that more steps still need to be taken.

Vaccinated Passengers may not have to self-isolate on return to UK Finavia

The UK government has set out the details to enable people who have been fully vaccinated with an National Health Service (NHS) administered vaccine, plus 14 days, to travel to amber list countries without having to quarantine on their return to England from 19 July 2021. The recommendation for people not to travel to amber list countries will also be removed from 19 July 2021.

The changes will come into force from 19 July 2021 at 04:00. Those who have been fully vaccinated with an NHS-administered vaccine in the UK and are returning from amber list countries will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before arrival in England, alongside a PCR test on or before day two after arrival. They will not have to take a day eight test or self-isolate. Any positive results will be genomically sequenced to continue to manage the risk from importing variants.

Children under the age of 18 will not have to isolate when returning to England. While the recommendation that people should not travel to amber countries is being removed, children aged four and under will continue to be exempt from any travel testing. Children aged five to 10 will only need to do a day two PCR test, and 11 to 18 year olds will need to take both a pre-departure test and a day two PCR test – as is the case for arrivals from green list countries.

At this stage, there will be no changes to requirements for those returning from green or red list countries – even when they are fully vaccinated, nor for unvaccinated passengers travelling from amber countries who do not have a valid exemption.

The UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Thanks to our successful vaccine rollout, we’re now able to widen quarantine-free travel to NHS-administered fully vaccinated adults and children under the age of 18, and take another step towards fully reopening international travel. As we continue with the domestic unlocking, it’s only right that we get people travelling again – whether that’s for business to help to create jobs, overdue holidays or reconnecting family and friends. However, protecting public health still remains our priority, and we will act swiftly if action is needed.”

Industry responses

Airport Operators Association (AOA)

Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association‘s Chief Executive, said: “This is a significant step forward that will be a boost to airports and the local economies that rely on them. Many airports’ staff will be able to get back to what they do best: supporting businesses to reach customers abroad, enabling people to visit friends and relatives and help people to take a well-deserved holiday abroad after a difficult period.”

“We are not out of the woods yet: the road to recovery will be long for our sector. It is vital for our industry that this policy is taken across the four UK nations, and we urge the devolved governments to follow the UK government’s approach. We will also work with the UK and devolved governments on extending this to inbound travellers, as well, so that people abroad can come to visit relatives and friends in the UK, business leaders can come to invest in our economy and the inbound tourism industry can start its recovery,” she added.

London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said: “This is excellent news that will give a much needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad.”

“But the job isn’t done – to really kickstart the UK’s economic recovery, global Britain needs to get trading again. U.S. business can get to the EU, but the UK remains cut off. The UK should open up travel to fully vaccinated people from more countries – particularly our key partners in the U.S. – by the end of July 2021,” he added.

London Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, said: “Plans to open up travel to ‘amber’ countries for those who have received both doses of the NHS vaccine without the need for quarantine is another small step in the right direction.  It capitalises on the UK’s world leading vaccination programme and will be very encouraging news for all of those who want to start travelling again.”

“However, with summer holidays just around the corner, we are approaching a crucial time for our industry, and we urge government to remove other barriers inhibiting international travel, including the need for costly PCR tests for those who have been double vaccinated. At the very least, if tests are required, they should be the more readily available lateral flow tests or PCR tests carried out free of charge at an NHS facility, as has been done in France. We would also urge government to urgently follow the lead of European Union (EU) counties to ensure that internationally agreed, coordinated protocols are in place so that processes when crossing borders to other countries are as smooth as possible, with no unnecessary queues, checks or costs,” he added.

Wingate concluded: “We know that many people are desperate to book flights to see relatives, take a well-deserved holiday or travel on business, and we look forward to welcoming back passengers in large numbers.  We will continue working closely with our airlines to ensure that the best possible public health measures are in place – following the latest government guidance – so that our customers can be confident that the airport environment is as safe as it possibly can be.”

London City Airport (LCY)

Robert Sinclair, Chief Executive of London City Airport, said: “We are pleased that the government will no longer require fully vaccinated British travellers to quarantine on arrival from amber list countries from 19 July 2021. This is a much-needed boost for the aviation industry and will give passengers the confidence to book journeys abroad, whether that’s for a well-earned holiday, business trip or to visit friends and relatives. However, the quarantine-free travel policy should be extended to non-British arrivals as soon as possible, and the government should also take further steps to make the testing regime simpler and more affordable.”