Airlines are putting pressure on the government to exempt fully-vaccinated Americans and EU visitors from quarantine on their arrival to the UK.
Amid widespread reports ministers could announce such a move as early as Wednesday, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – as well as Heathrow Airport – have claimed a recent trial demonstrates how international travel can safely be opened up further.
They said a 10-day pilot scheme proved that the COVID vaccination status of travellers from amber list countries can be efficiently and accurately checked away from the border.
Currently, those arriving in the UK from amber list locations – which includes the US and much of the EU – must have had both doses of a coronavirus jab as part of the UK’s own vaccination programme to avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.
However, the government has committed to a review of international travel rules by the end of this month.
Ahead of a meeting of senior ministers on the COVID-O committee on Wednesday morning, a number of newspapers reported there are plans to allow US citizens, with a vaccine card proving their full vaccination, as well as EU citizens, who possess the bloc’s “green pass” to show their vaccinated status, to have their documents recognised.
The Guardian reported this was as long as the vaccines they received are also authorised for use in the UK.
And the Financial Times said arrivals from the EU and US would still have to present a negative pre-departure test and take a further test on day two of their stay in the UK.
Under the pilot scheme held by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport, around 250 fully-vaccinated passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens earlier this month presented their COVID status using paper or digital formats before boarding a plane.
Some 99% of their documents were verified as authentic, with just two passengers’ credentials rejected.
In one case there was a discrepancy between the name on their vaccine card and the name on their passport, while another involved someone who had been fully-vaccinated less than 14 days before travel.
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British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the trial provided “the evidence the government needs” to allow fully-vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries to enter the UK without needing to quarantine.
“The UK needs to safely reopen its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme,” he added.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: “The vaccine has been a miracle of science, and these trials have shown that we can allow fully-vaccinated passengers from the EU and US to visit the UK without quarantine.
“There is now no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from July 31.”
Some cabinet ministers are suggested to be concerned that London could lose out to other tourist locations in Europe now that many EU countries are offering quarantine-free travel to fully vaccinated Americans.