U.K. Adds Balearics, Malta to Quarantine-Free Travel List
(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. added Spain’s Balearic islands and Malta onto its quarantine-free “green” travel list, and said rules will be relaxed later for more destinations for people who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Airline shares gained on Friday after the announcement, which will boost the country’s ailing travel industry ahead of the school holidays that begin next month. Bermuda, Madeira, and a number of Caribbean destinations were also added to the list.
Opening up the island destinations to U.K. tourists will offer some measure of relief to a U.K. aviation industry that’s been whipsawed by changing travel rules -- most recently when Portugal was abruptly pulled off the green list.
However, the prospects for Britons hoping to take trips in Europe are still uncertain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested the whole European Union should coordinate its rules closely and be more cautious about allowing entry to travelers from countries outside the bloc with high rates of the delta variant of the virus -- which would include the U.K.
Germany, Italy and Poland have already imposed quarantine rules on people arriving from the U.K. due to the rise in British cases of the fast-spreading mutation. France and Portugal have said they may tighten restrictions.
Under the U.K.’s traffic-light system, destinations are coded red for those with the highest Covid-19 danger, amber for moderate risk and green for low risk. Travelers returning from green-listed countries do not need to quarantine, but those on the amber and red lists must isolate for 10 days after arrival.
There was also a measure of caution in the U.K.’s latest easing of restrictions: All the new additions, bar Malta, were also put on the green watch list -- meaning they could be placed on the medium-risk amber list at short notice.
The government said it plans to ease rules further “later in the summer” to allow people who are double-vaccinated to return from amber countries without needing to self-isolate. Details will be set out next month, including the rules for children and when the changes will come into effect, it said.
“We’re moving forward with efforts to safely reopen international travel this summer, and thanks to the success of our vaccination program, we’re now able to consider removing the quarantine period for fully vaccinated U.K. arrivals from amber countries, showing a real sign of progress,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement late Thursday.
Executives at carriers including EasyJet Plc, Ryanair Holdings Plc and British Airways rely on the U.K., the biggest supplier of tourists in Europe alongside Germany, for big chunks of their business. They’ve grown increasingly frustrated with their hands tied as nearby countries in the European Union steadily relax their borders.
While the industry welcomed Thursday’s move, they said it doesn’t go far enough. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss said in a statement the U.S. should have been added to the green list. EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said the government’s timetable for resuming international travel “simply isn’t ambitious enough.”
EasyJet put 50,000 extra seats on sale to newly green-listed destinations. Shares of the U.K. low-cost carrier jumped as much as 2.6% in London, while Irish rival Ryanair, tour operator TUI AG and British Airways parent IAG SA also gained.
“There are some airlines that have already lost another summer,” Willie Walsh, the head of the International Air Transport Association trade group, said in an interview before the announcement. He cited Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier he once ran and oversaw as chief executive officer of IAG. It’s dependent on transatlantic travel and is in a situation that’s “much more difficult than others.”
Airport Operators Association CEO Karen Dee said the announcement is “not yet the vaccine dividend people in the U.K. had hoped for.”
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had not ruled out taking a foreign holiday himself this year but cautioned travel overseas would continue to be disrupted by the pandemic.
“The real opportunity we all have now is to open up travel through the double jab,” Johnson said in pooled broadcast interview. More than 60% of U.K. adults have now received their second vaccine dose.
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