Vaccine boost saves summer as double-jabbed scramble to book holidays

Travel: Double jab rules will be 'boost for economy' says expert

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Self-isolation rules are being waived for the fully vaccinated from “Freedom Day” on July 19, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. His announcement to MPs sparked a last-minute dash for summer holiday deals and cheers from the beleaguered travel industry. Mr Shapps said people returning from amber list countries such as France, Spain and Portugal must still take a Covid test three days before returning.

They will also have to take a test on or before the second day of their return, but will be exempt from the Day Eight test.

Expats will benefit from the change too, provided they were vaccinated in the UK.

However, the rule for England could add hundreds to the cost of family holidays because children will also need to have the screening.

PCR tests for those returning from green list destinations also stand and Mr Shapps said: “In essence, this means that for fully vaccinated travellers, the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same.”

Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the transport select committee, said: “Rejoice, rejoice!

“This is a much needed shot in the arm for those who have had two shots of the vaccine and for an industry and workforce who have been laid low during the pandemic.”

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel association Abta said: “Having to quarantine when returning from an amber list country has been a significant barrier for many people.

“It’s especially welcome that this will come in time for the school summer holidays.

“We know there is significant pent-up demand to travel abroad, see family and friends, make business connections and have a well-deserved holiday.

“The Minister today has sent a clear message that people can travel abroad to amber list countries this summer – opening up travel to many popular holiday destinations.”

But Mr Tanzer warned ministers that “there is a lot more that needs to happen for the industry to get back on its feet” and “the need for Government support remains pressing”.

Airlines were quick to welcome the changes, which may differ in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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

While the announcement applies to UK residents only, Mr Shapps said ministers were “working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets of holiday destinations later this summer, such as the US and the EU”.

Airline easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “With unnecessary testing staying in place, more needs to be done. We do not want to see a return to flying being a preserve of the rich. Testing could sadly make travel out of reach for some this summer.”

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle welcomed the “common sense approach”, but said: “While the quarantine requirement for amber countries is being lifted for fully vaccinated UK travellers, the Government needs to quickly extend this to all vaccinated travellers.

“It also needs to agree a reciprocal deal with the US, add more countries to the green list and reduce the need for unnecessary, expensive tests.” Among the technicalities for the move as it stands is that the quarantine exemption will apply only to those who have received their vaccines through the expansive NHS rollout.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman explained: “You would need to have received your vaccine through the NHS rather than in a different country.”

Comment by Nigel Thompson 

Readers of a certain vintage may remember a 1970s BBC kids’ TV show Here Come the Double Deckers.

To parody the ludicrously catchy theme tune: “Get on board, get on board, come and join the Double Jabbers!’’

At long last, after so many wearying months of Covid lockdown misery and chaos for tourists and the travel industry, tens of millions of two-jab Britons – including families – finally have some sort of opportunity to go on a foreign getaway to a huge range of popular destinations without quarantining, if they wish to.

“Wish to” is probably the key thing, as it’s obviously not going to be as straightforward to travel overseas as it was before the pandemic.

Some people may find the faffing and expense of Covid PCR tests and locator forms off-putting, and others may not be keen on being on a packed plane for hours. And no doubt there will be some monstrous immigration queues on return.

Nevertheless, with 140-plus countries firmly back on the international holiday radar – with many favourite sunshine destinations such as Spain, France, Greece, Portugal
and Cyprus included, plus more Caribbean gems – there’s still going to be a joyous stampede of flip-flop wearers heading to the UK’s airports and ferry ports.

Of course, it’s not just holidaymakers who will benefit – there are many Brits who are absolutely desperate to see their families who live abroad.

Restarting a significant volume of international leisure travel from July 19 is also a massive shot in the arm for the traumatised UK travel industry.

A word of warning, though.

There is going to be the risk of an amber destination going red, with the prospect of a mandatory airport hotel quarantine.

Holidays in this new normal will need much checking of a destination’s virus rates.

And given the soaring Delta variant rates here, it’s always a possibility some countries will change their travel rules and not welcome us. But overall, this is brilliant news.

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