U.K. Eases Quarantine Rules, Opening Up Travel With France
(Bloomberg) -- Fully vaccinated visitors arriving in England from France will no longer have to isolate for 10 days, a loosening of restrictions that puts them in the same category as travelers from most other European countries.
The U.K. also eased rules for arrivals from India, Bahrain, and travel hubs the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Those countries will move from the U.K.’s highest-risk “red” list to its medium-risk “amber” list, meaning arrivals will no longer need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
Six other European nations, including Germany, were added to the lowest-risk “green” list, meaning all visitors can avoid quarantine whether or not they are fully vaccinated. All changes will come into effect from 4 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8.
Spain and all its islands -- key summer holiday destinations for British tourists -- will remain on the amber list, but travelers are advised to get take a lab-processed PCR test before departing to the U.K.
The rule changes will be a boon for airlines and tourism companies that have been hit hard by the pandemic and objected loudly to U.K. travel curbs. The British government was under growing pressure from French ministers, as well as industry bodies, to overturn its decision last month to put France in a newly created “amber-plus” category.
“We welcome more low-risk countries being added to the green list but urge the government to go further,” British Airways Chief Executive Officer Sean Doyle said in a statement. “We’re lagging behind Europe, with our more stringent testing requirements and a red list significantly broader than our European peers.”
After Spain, France was the second most-visited country by Britons before the pandemic, with low-cost carriers including EasyJet Plc offering dozens of flights per week. The surprise amber-plus restriction in July came just as school holidays began in the U.K.
While airline travel has rapidly rebounded in Europe, the U.K.’s evolving restrictions deterred many in Britain from booking overseas trips. Seat capacity in the U.K. this week was 42% of 2019 levels, compared with 68% for the wider European region, according to data from OAG.
Large network airlines in particular have been clamoring for restrictions to be dropped on long-distance routes in order to generate vital cash. Classifying India and the UAE as medium-risk will offer some relief to carriers including IAG SA-owned British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., Emirates and Qatar Airways.
But the U.S., a key long-haul market, remains only partially open. Americans are allowed to holiday in Europe, but Britons and people from most other European countries still can’t go to the U.S.
President Joe Biden is preparing to require foreign arrivals to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Reuters reported, as part of a plan to eventually move away from country bans.
“It seems that a path is opening,” French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on France Info radio Thursday.
Shares of IAG, EasyJet and tour operator TUI AG rose in London on Thursday, while low-cost carriers Ryanair Holdings Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc, which are less dependent on the U.K., were slightly negative.
The U.K. Department for Transport said Wednesday that the declining proportion of French Covid cases from the beta variant, which may be more vaccine-resistant, meant it would now be moved back to the amber list.
The U.K. decision “puts an end to an incomprehensible situation,” France’s Djebbari said.
Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway were added to the lowest-risk list, allowing quarantine-free travel. People returning to England from a green or amber country must take a Covid-19 test before departure and book a test for day two after arrival.
Initially, the changes will apply only to England, although other regions of the U.K. are expected to follow the same regime.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said more work was needed.
“We remain a long way off a full and meaningful restart of international travel and the government must recognize this and provide the support that will protect our world class aviation industry and the thousands of jobs that remain at risk,” Dee said in a statement.
Under rules introduced Aug. 2, all fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and European Union can avoid isolation on arrival into the U.K. France was not initially included in this due to concerns over the beta variant.
Visitors from other amber-list countries, as well as those who are not fully vaccinated, need to self-isolate for 10 days. That period can be shortened if they pay for an extra test on day five.
“In this new world we’re living with coronavirus, and as we have done domestically with the unlocking, learning to live with it with international travel as well,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC radio. “Double vaccination and full vaccination is going to be a feature for ever more, and probably all countries will require full vaccination in order for you to enter.”
Georgia, Mexico, and the French islands of La Reunion and Mayotte were added to the U.K.’s red list from Aug. 8, the government said, because of the risk from variants or high prevalence of the coronavirus. Only people with U.K. residency rights can enter from red-list nations, and everyone must quarantine for 10 days in a hotel.
The cost of staying in a government-approved quarantine hotel for travelers from “red” countries will rise to £2,285 ($3,174) for a single adult from Aug. 12, up from £1,750, the government said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.