U.K.-U.S. Travel Corridor Is ‘Imperative,’ Business Chief Says

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The U.K. and U.S. should urgently implement reciprocal quarantine-free travel to boost the economic recovery from the pandemic, according to a prominent British business leader.

“Opening up the U.S. corridor is imperative as soon as possible,” said Karan Bilimoria, president of the Confederation of British Industry, which represents 190,000 businesses in the U.K. The rapid vaccine rollout in both countries means “it should happen as soon as we can,” he said in an interview Friday.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to discuss the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden at the G-7 summit in Cornwall, England next week, and officials on both sides of the Atlantic have been in talks. Yet the U.K tightened its border rules this week by imposing quarantine on travelers from Portugal, disrupting holidaymakers’ plans and slamming the travel industry.

More than half of Britain’s adult population has now received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, while about 40% of the population in the U.S. is fully vaccinated. Nevertheless, the U.K. continues to be cautious on travel due to fears that new Covid-19 mutations could prove resistant to vaccines.

At the same time, the British government is under significant pressure from the airline industry to ease travel restrictions after more than a year of Covid-19 rules has brought the sector to its knees. Shares in companies such as EasyJet Plc, Ryanair Holdings Plc and British Airways parent IAG SA plunged on Thursday in response to the latest quarantine rules for Portugal.

A travel corridor would make a “huge difference” to companies on both sides of the Atlantic and the British government should use the wide availability of lateral flow coronavirus tests -- which have a quick turnaround time -- to facilitate travel, Bilimoria said.

“Let’s use those tests when it comes to travel to make it more affordable,” he said, suggesting a positive test could be followed up with a more rigorous PCR test, which take longer to process. “We are in a position to be able to do that.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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