Fully vaccinated Britons could enjoy quarantine-free holidays from as early as July 19 as ministers scramble to save the summer season – but will still face tough entry restrictions in many countries.
Boris Johnson is under huge pressure from senior ministers to sign off a ‘big bang’ reopening on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ with travel curbs eased at the same time as restrictions are lifted at home.
Formal advice against trips to ‘amber list’ countries would be dropped for those who have been double-jabbed under the plans – opening up summer breaks in Spain, France, Italy, Greece and the United States.
Children would also be able to avoid quarantine if travelling with their parents.
Meanwhile, Malta and Spain’s Balearic Islands are on track to be added to the ‘green list’ tomorrow, offering more options for people desperate for some sunshine.
However, those taking advantage of the loosening still face tough restrictions on entry to major destinations. The US has a complete travel ban in place on Britons, while Italy requires five-day self-isolation on arrival. Germany only accepts people for ‘humanitarian reasons’ and has mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals.
Tomorrow’s ministerial meeting on foreign travel is expected to be followed by a further session on Monday. Ministers are expected to sign off the plans to allow the double jabbed to travel to amber list countries without the need for quarantine on return.
Downing Street is targeting August for the change. But ministers including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are pushing for curbs on international travel to be lifted from July 19. This would allow families and the battered travel sector to make the most of the summer.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to be ‘sympathetic’ to the move because of the effectiveness of Covid jabs and yesterday he confirmed that ministers were ‘working on’ plans for quarantine-free travel.
However the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove are said still to be cautious.
The World Travel & Tourism Council wrote to Mr Johnson yesterday to say that maintaining restrictions on the sector through July would cost the UK £639million a day.
Its warning came as:
- Ministers agreed with Uefa a deal that will see 60,000 fans pack Wembley for the final of the Euros, in the biggest trial of Covid passports to date;
- The Prime Minister faced renewed pressure to bring forward Freedom Day to July 5, as Covid data continued to improve;
- Nicola Sturgeon warned that Covid restrictions could remain in place in Scotland until August 9;
- The head of a government taskforce on the future of work suggested Britain could move towards a four-day week;
- Matt Hancock said Britain was on track to reopen on July 15 following ‘encouraging’ data on hospitalisations and deaths;
- Daily cases rose to 11,625, the highest figure since mid-February, but deaths are averaging just 13 per day.
The PC Agency travel consultancy has suggested that 14 countries currently on Britain’s amber list could be moved to green. Separately, there are also suggestions that the bottom two countries, France and Greece, could also make it onto the list
Fully vaccinated Britons could enjoy quarantine-free holidays from as early as July 19, the Mail can reveal today. Pictured: People sunbathe on the beach on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, as a flow of migrants arriving on the Mediterranean island, in Lampedusa, Italy, June 22
Senior ministers are pressing Boris Johnson (pictured during his visit to a Covid-19 vaccination centre temporarily set up at StoneX Stadium, home of English rugby union club Saracens, in north London, on June 21, 2021) to sanction a ‘big bang’ reopening with travel curbs eased at the same time as restrictions are lifted at home
A Cabinet source told the Mail there was clear evidence vaccinations were working.
‘It’s all over, even if not everyone in Government has realised it yet,’ the source said. ‘The link between cases and deaths is broken. We know that double jabs work to protect people so why delay the resumption of international travel? There is no reason not to go ahead now – every day counts.’
What is on Britain’s green list – and what could be added in latest review?
The 11 countries currently on Britain’s green list:
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- New Zealand
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
The 14 countries that could be added to the green list due to low case rates, according to the PC Agency:
- Balearic Islands
And two further countries that it is now claimed could also be moved to the green list:
Mr Hancock said the Government was being ‘cautious about international travel’ in order to protect the progress made at home. But he added: ‘Having said that, the whole point of the vaccine programme is to be able to remove restrictions, and for people to be able to be kept safe by the vaccine, rather than by these rules.’
Huw Merriman, Tory chairman of the Commons transport committee, welcomed plans to lift quarantine requirements for the fully vaccinated, but said they should be brought in immediately.
‘There’s no reason to hold back or delay until August,’ he said. ‘The vaccine is effective and the NHS app provides proof for the millions who have received it. The industry has been working for months to make this vaccine dividend operational.
‘We now look to the Government to give the green light and let the industry crack on with making it work.’
Andrew Flintham, managing director of travel giant Tui, warned that many companies were ‘perilously close to failing’, adding that ‘every week that goes by just pushes those people closer to that very sad outcome’. The Business Travel Association said that, up to mid-June, GDP had taken a £3.18billion hit from the decline of business travel in the pandemic.
The World Travel & Tourism Council warned up to 218,000 UK jobs could be lost if no action was taken. This is in addition to the 307,000 travel-related posts lost last year.
A Government source said August was the most likely start date for the new travel system. The source said that although people can already prove vaccine status with the NHS app, it would ‘take time’ to implement the change.
Quarantine free holidays to Ibiza and Mallorca could resume within days after Government scientists advised that they can be moved to the travel green list.
It comes as a welcome small relief for the travel industry – with tourism chiefs warning they face their ‘darkest hour’.
Industry leaders have pleaded with ministers to lift Covid travel curbs to save them from going bust this summer.
Ministers will meet tomorrow to decide which – if any – countries should be added to the tiny list of destinations where foreign holidays are currently permitted.
But scientists have advised ministers that the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain are now safe to be given green status.
If agreed, British holidaymakers could travel to Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca and Formentera without the need to quarantine on return.
Malta, which was approved by scientists but controversially rejected by ministers last month, is also expected to be added.
They would be the first mainstream holiday destinations on the list since the controversial removal of Portugal last month.
However, mainland Spain will remain on the amber list, meaning that travel is advised against, and quarantine is required on return.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the UK’s largest travel association Abta, led calls yesterday for restrictions to be eased amid the success of the vaccine rollout. He warned ‘the wolves are at the door’ for thousands of businesses.
Quarantine free holidays to Ibiza and Mallorca could resume within days after Government scientists advised that they can be moved to the travel green list. Pictured: Menorca
Opening the Travel Matters conference of industry bosses, organised by Abta, Mr Tanzer said: ‘They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. This dawn has been a long time coming, and we desperately need to see day breaking soon.
‘And yet at our hour of greatest need the Government seems intent on looking away. We’re desperate. We have members on the point of failure, of losing their businesses, in some cases their homes.’
Hundreds of industry bosses and employees will descend on Parliament Square today as part of a ‘Travel Day of Action’ in protest at the Government’s handling of the issue.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: ‘It is now or never for the Government to reopen travel and save what is remaining of the summer season – not just for families desperate to get away but the tens of thousands of jobs which rely upon this once thriving sector.’
Ministers will also consider on Thursday whether quarantine rules for double-jabbed holidaymakers from medium-risk amber nations should be dropped. As it stands, all amber arrivals must quarantine for at least five days regardless of whether they have been jabbed.
Mr Tanzer said his organisation was considering legal action against the Government over its traffic light system. He accused ministers of failing to share the data upon which the decisions are made.
Mr Tanzer added: ‘Outbound travel is the sort of naughty child of everyone… that’s a bias we have to overcome.’
Industry leaders have pleaded with ministers to lift Covid travel curbs to save them from going bust this summer. Ministers will meet tomorrow to decide which – if any – countries should be added to the tiny list of destinations where foreign holidays are currently permitted. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Meanwhile, Tui announced it was joining Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ parent company IAG in supporting legal action already launched against the Government.
Tui, Virgin Atlantic and IAG in legal action against Government travel rules
Tui has announced it has joined Virgin Atlantic and British Airways’ parent company IAG in supporting legal action against the Government’s coronavirus travel restrictions.
The UK’s largest tour operator said the three firms have become interested parties in a challenge launched by Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group last week.
The legal bid is an attempt to get the Government to be more transparent in relation to how it determines which countries are on the green, amber and red lists under the traffic light system for international travel.
There are currently no major viable tourist destinations on the quarantine-free green list.
Speaking at the Travel Matters conference organised by industry association Abta, Tui managing director Andrew Flintham said: ‘At the time of the last country review, many destinations such as Malta, the Greek islands and the Balearics had much lower rates (of infection) than the UK.
‘It was inexplicable as to why these were not added and instead Portugal was moved straight from green to amber, without the slightest sign of stopping at the much-vaunted green watchlist.
‘We must understand the criteria we are all working towards so we can pre-empt when countries may move into different categories and help our customers with that challenge, and we must understand how the framework is being applied.’
The UK’s largest tour operator said the three firms have become interested parties in a challenge launched by Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group last week. The legal bid is an attempt to force ministers into being more transparent over how countries are ranked green, amber and red.
Tui’s Europe boss, Andrew Flintham, called some decisions ‘inexplicable’ and said the action was a last resort as ‘we’ve reached the end of our tether’.
He added: ‘We have the world’s best vaccination programme, maybe bar Israel, yet we have one of the world’s most restrictive travel programmes, maybe bar Australia.’
Both the US and European Union are allowing fully vaccinated citizens to sidestep testing or quarantine measures for holidays.
Huw Merriman MP, Tory chairman of the Commons transport committee, told delegates that the Government’s travel policy had been ‘shambolic’.
He said: ‘It’s been the sector that really has become the poster child for having been treated the most miserably in terms of the rules, restrictions and support from the Government.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘We recognise the challenging times facing all sectors of transport as a result of Covid-19, which is why we put in place an economy-wide support package.’
Other promising data today revealed the country has moved one step closer to herd immunity, with nearly nine in 10 adults now having antibodies against Covid.
The major Office for National Statistics (ONS) blood testing survey highlighted the success of the UK’s mammoth vaccination campaign, which is now open to every adult in all four home nations. Almost 60 per cent of over-18s (31.5million) are now fully jabbed.
But only 60,000 jabs were recorded as being dished out yesterday because of an ‘IT issue’ affecting England. The problem resulted in clinicians having to log who received their vaccine with pen and paper.
Britain is recording nearly 10,000 daily infections now compared to 2,000 in late April when the ‘Delta’ variant was first seeded in the country.
But the speed at which cases are increasing every week has slowed to around 35 per cent, down from 65 per cent earlier this month.
Just 1,290 people are currently being treated in hospital for Covid now, compared to nearly 40,000 at the peak of the second wave. The current figure is significantly better than even the best case scenarios modelled by some scientific groups within SAGE.
Weekly coronavirus deaths are also continuing to fall. A Office for National Statistics’ weekly report today found that there were 84 deaths registered across England and Wales in the past seven days, the lowest figure recorded since September last year.
The same set of statistics also showed Covid accounted for just 0.8 per cent of all deaths recorded across the two countries in the most recent week — with flu and pneumonia now killing 10 times as many patients as coronavirus.
And analysis of the data by MailOnline revealed more than a third of all 300-plus councils across the two nations have not suffered a Covid fatality since April.
Britain’s impressive vaccination programme is the driving force behind the surging numbers of people who are showing signs of immunity and the low hospitalisation figures.
Across the whole of the UK, 43.1million people have had at least one dose of a jab.
The UK was expected to hit another milestone in the roll-out today, with ministers hoping to pass figure of 60 per cent of adults fully vaccinated.
Antibody positive levels are highest among older age groups who have had two doses but rising fast in younger adults, too. In those who were first to get vaccinated the rate of immunity has flattened off at over 99 per cent, showing almost everyone has at least some protection against the virus
HAS BRITAIN’S THIRD WAVE ALREADY PEAKED? Britain is recording nearly 10,000 daily infections now compared to 2,000 in late April when the ‘Delta’ variant was first seeded in the country. But the speed at which cases are increasing every week has slowed to nearly 30 per cent, down from 65 per cent earlier this month, suggesting the outbreak had peaked by the first week of June
But an IT system crash on Monday afternoon has caused a delay to the daily vaccination numbers, according to NHS England.
Nicola’s never-ending lockdown? Sturgeon delays Scotland’s ‘Level 0’ Freedom Day until July 19 with social distancing, masks and WFH until AUTUMN
Nicola Sturgeon raised the prospect of some Scottish Covid restrictions remaining in place into the autumn today as she postponed ending the country’s lockdown by three weeks.
The First Minister brought her country into line with England by pushing the country’s downgrading to Level Zero back to July 19 because of the spread of the Indian variant.
She pledged to scrap all laws covering Covid restrictions by August 9 – but admitted that Scots might well be asked to voluntarily continue social distancing and wear masks in some situations after that date.
Scotland was meant to have its own relative Freedom Day on June 28, but rates of infection, particularly across the most populous central belt, led to today’s announcement.
Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood that life would feel ‘much, much less restrictive’ after August 9.
She also pledged to ‘encourage support’ for continued home working after workplaces are fully able to reopen.
The setting of these dates is likely to raise pressure on Boris Johnson to set out what measures might remain in place after England’s Freedom Day on July 19.
The issue resulted in clinicians being unable to log who had received their jab via the usual digital method, and instead had to record it with pen and paper.
Now the system is back up and running the data needs to be manually entered, which will be time consuming given that several hundred thousand doses are being administered each day.
‘Following the IT issue that was reported to the NHS yesterday (21 June), the daily Covid statistics will be updated tomorrow, while vaccinations recorded yesterday are updated to the digital system,’ the NHS England website said.
‘The issue is now resolved and there has been no impact on vaccinations taking place.’
People were still urged to get their jab if they had a booking, as it would cause no difference to the service. The problem was also an isolated incident, meaning the public could still access the booking site as normal.
On top of the vaccine effect, there are also positive signs that the new Delta variant can be controlled without lockdowns. Hotspots Bolton and Blackburn managed to get cases under control with extra testing and contact tracing.
This appears to have given No10 confidence it can push ahead with its July 19 planned unlocking, despite the Indian variant now accounting for almost every new infection.
Mr Hancock told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘We are seeing that growth in case rates is slowing. Thankfully the number of hospitalisations, while rising, is not rising very quickly and thankfully even more is that the number of people dying from Covid remains very, very low.’
He added: ‘So I’d say we’re on track for the opening on the 19th of July, and we will watch vigilantly and we’ll look at the data in particular at the start of next week.
‘But I’d say the data has since, over last week or so, been encouraging, and especially looking at the number of people who are dying, that is staying very, very low and shows the vaccines are working and getting us out of this.’
Today’s ONS antibody report was based on random blood tests of around 18,000 adults across the UK between June 7 and June 10.
It showed that all the age groups over 34 in England had antibodies were estimated to have 90 per cent of people with antibodies, which independent scientists described as ‘remarkable’.
Overall, 86.6 per cent of the results in England were positive, with rates mostly even between regions. Wales had the highest proportion of positive tests at 88.7 per cent, but its results were based on just 654 samples.