U.K. Considers Plan to Open Foreign Travel for Vaccinated Passengers

Passengers wait at check-in desks in the departures hall in Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport in London, U.K. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

U.K. Considers Plan to Open Foreign Travel for Vaccinated Passengers

British officials are considering plans to open up international travel for passengers who’ve been fully inoculated against Covid-19, allowing a resumption of tourism to more than 150 countries and territories including the vital U.S. market and some of the most popular European destinations.

Under the policy, which is still being discussed inside government, people who have received both doses of coronavirus vaccine would not need to quarantine on entry from medium-risk countries on the so-called amber list.

That would provide a major boost to airlines and tourism businesses, which have been hammered since the pandemic first prompted governments to restrict cross-border travel. While airline shares surged on the possible adjustment, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said Thursday that “absolutely no decisions” have been made.

Under current rules, destinations are coded red for the highest coronavirus infection risk, amber for medium risk and green for the lowest risk. Travelers are advised against going to amber or red list countries.

People who arrive in England from destinations on the amber list must quarantine at home or in the place where they are staying for 10 days, and take at least two Covid-19 tests during the period.

“We are always learning more about the virus and its variants,” Johnson’s spokesman Max Blain told reporters. “At this stage in the pandemic, our current approach is the right one, but we keep our measures under review.”

Court Action

Carriers have criticized the policy, especially after Portugal was abruptly taken off the green list earlier this month, dealing a blow to the all-important summer travel season.

MAG, the owner of Manchester and London Stansted airports, said Thursday it had filed a challenge to the rules in court, backed by carriers including Ryanair Holdings Plc. They say a lack of transparency on how risk levels are assessed is undermining consumer confidence and hindering a travel-industry recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

The Department for Transport said it can’t comment on legal proceedings, while adding that the government is pursuing “the timely reopening of international travel while safeguarding public health and protecting the vaccine roll-out.”

According to a person familiar with the matter, the quarantine requirement could be lifted for people who have been double vaccinated, but they would still need to take tests. There are currently more than 160 countries and territories on the amber list, including popular European destinations such as Greece, Spain, France and the U.S.

Shares of Ryanair jumped 4.3% for their biggest intraday gain in almost two months, before closing 3.2% higher in Dublin. EasyJet Plc advanced as much as 5% and ended the day at plus 2.4% in London, while British Airways owner IAG SA climbed 3.9% and closed with up 1.9%.

See Also: Delta Air, Virgin Atlantic to Launch Digital Health Credential

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