LONDON — Fully vaccinated travellers from the United States and much of Europe will be able to enter England without quarantining starting next week, the U.K. government said Wednesday – a move welcomed by Britain’s ailing travel industry.
The British government said people who have received both doses of a vaccine approved by the FDA in the U.S. or the European Medicines Agency, which regulates drugs for the European Union and several other countries, will be able to take pre- and post-arrival coronavirus tests instead of self-isolating for 10 days.
The change, however, does not apply to fully vaccinated travellers from Canada, who will still have to undergo quarantine upon arrival.
There is also one exception in Europe: France, which the U.K. has dubbed a higher risk because of the presence of the beta variant of the coronavirus. Visitors from France will continue to face quarantine when arriving in England.
Currently only people who have been vaccinated in Britain can skip 10 days of quarantine when arriving from most of Europe or North America.
The rule change takes effect at 4 a.m. U.K. time on Monday and applies to England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will decide whether to follow suit.
Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the government had made the “right decision.” British Airways also welcomed the move, but urged the government to go farther and ease restrictions on visitors from more countries.
The WTTC issued a statement shortly after news broke, with Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President and Acting CEO, saying that the Travel & Tourism sector and the U.K. economy will get a huge boost from the new rule.
“The cruise industry will breathe a sigh of relief that the crucial relaunch of international cruise departures from England has been given the green light, giving hope to a sector which has struggled to stay afloat,” she said. “It also throws a vital lifeline to airlines and businesses throughout the sector, by helping to restore much-needed transatlantic travel and essential links to the EU.
“However, unless it’s reciprocal and the U.S. responds with a similar move, we won’t see the full benefit.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. announced it is keeping a ban on most international visitors and has advised Americans against travel to the U.K., citing a surge in infections driven by the more contagious delta variant of the virus. Some European countries, including Italy, also require British visitors to quarantine on arrival.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he expected the U.S. to ease its travel restrictions.
“We can’t change that on the other side, but we do expect that in time they will release that executive order, which was actually signed by the previous president, and bans inward travel,” he said.
Following the news, the U.K. government confirmed to CBC News that the change in policy does not apply to Canadians though no reason was given for the exclusion. In a statement to CBC News, the Department for Transport said the U.K. is taking a “phased approach” to restarting international travel in order to protect public health.
With file from The Associated Press