People who have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine may not be required to quarantine after going on trips overseas, it emerged today.
Cabinet ministers are considering easing restrictions for double-jabbed UK travellers, while a top Public Health England medic hinted there may be ‘alternatives to isolation’ for fully-vaccinated Britons.
Such a move would help placate the beleaguered travel industry, which has been devastated by restrictions and successive lockdowns more than a year and whose chiefs have warned of a jobs bloodbath.
Under current rules, UK travellers from red list countries must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 per person.
Those who leave the quarantine hotel before the end of their 10 days could be handed a £5,000 fine, rising to a maximum of £10,000.
People travelling to the UK from amber list countries have to quarantine for 10 days at home, and will need to present proof of a negative PCR test upon arrival, as well as tests on days two and eight of quarantine.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning, Dr Susan Hopkins said: ‘We’ll be looking at the evidence from other countries.
‘We’ve talked a lot to countries like Israel who are ahead of us in the vaccination campaign, and they are now really looking at allowing people to come into their country who’ve had two vaccines and not needing to isolate.
‘And they are allowing their population to travel more.
‘We will need to be alert and will need to consider how we can measure the response of these vaccines to new variants that come along.
‘But we are moving steps forward, and I think that in a time in the future, I’m not sure when, I can imagine a situation where we will have alternatives to isolation for people who have two doses of the vaccine.’
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said ministers are considering easing restrictions for double-jabbed UK travellers, while Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England hinted there may be ‘alternatives to isolation’ for fully-vaccinated Britons
A member of the Armed Forces administers a vaccination to Mika Callaghan from Glasgow at the vaccination centre at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility in Motherwell, Scotland
UK travellers from red list countries must currently quarantine in a government-approved hotel on arrival for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 per person
The change could save summer holidays for many as Spain, Portugal, Greece and the US are on the amber list. Under current rules, Britons must self-isolate for ten days on return
Where would British holidaymakers be allowed to visit if the rules changed?
A change to UK travel rules to allow quarantine-free travel to amber list countries by the double-jabbed would only be half the battle.
Potential holidaymakers will also have to satisfy local rules on visitors, with popular European countries and destinations further afield all having their own requirements.
Here are how some of the most popular with Britons are currently operating:
France – Open to UK holidaymakers with negative Covid test result AND proof of two vaccinations
Spain – Open to UK holidaymakers, no requirement for negative tests or vaccination proof
Italy – Open to UK holidaymakers with negative Covid test result
Greece – Open to UK holidaymakers with negative Covid test result or proof of two vaccinations
Malta – Open to UK holidaymakers with negative Covid test result
Portugal – Open to UK holidaymakers with negative Covid test result
Germany – Closed to UK holidaymakers
United States – Closed to UK holidaymakers
Responding to Dr Hopkins’ remarks, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the Government has not ruled out relaxing restrictions, such as on foreign travel and self-isolation, for those who have received both vaccines.
‘I think experts like Susan Hopkins are absolutely right to remind us the evidence is still developing on double vaccinations,’ he told the BBC.
‘It looks great, it looks really encouraging, we’re trying to be as flexible as we can. We will keep on looking at all these proposals and flexes as appropriate.’
Last week a senior minister confirmed that plans are being considered to allow double-jabbed tourists to travel abroad more freely.
Jesse Norman said he ‘wouldn’t write anything off’ as it was revealed that coronavirus passports could be used to allow UK visitors to amber list countries to avoid self-isolation on their return.
These countries include a large number of popular European holiday destinations, including Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. The US is also on the amber list but is currently barring UK tourists.
The Department for Transport said it is considering how vaccinations could be used for inbound travel to the UK. More than half of UK adults have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, putting it far ahead of Europe.
The chief executive of Ryanair has called the travel policy ‘a shambles’, and such is the airline’s frustration that it now wants to sue the government over its ‘opaque’ system for classifying travel destinations as green, amber or red.
The traffic light system even came in for criticism from a leading Sage member. Professor Neil Ferguson criticised the current travel restrictions as ‘ineffective window dressing’ that should either be toughened up or abandoned.
Mr Norman, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News nothing was ruled out in considering how to re-open travel, but they would be cautious in introducing plans for so-called ‘vaccine passports’.
‘We are trying to move cautiously and progressively in the right direction so I wouldn’t write anything off at this point,’ he said.
‘We are trying to move cautiously and progressively in the right direction, but we are in a situation where the virus is not something we control.
‘We have seen this new variant and therefore it would be imprudent to make any carte blanche or firm statement now.’
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden later gave a similarly restrained view of the UK’s travel rules.
‘Of course we keep all these things under review but none of us want to stop anyone going on holiday. The reason we have these border restrictions is to help keep Covid under control,’ the Culture Secretary told Sky.
‘As soon as we are able to ease those restrictions in a way that is safe for public health, we will look to do so.’
Asked again about more freedom for double-jabbed travellers, he added: ‘Of course we are keeping this under review and if we can find a way of making it work, we will make it work.’
Under the new plans reported in the Telegraph, those who have been double-jabbed will be allowed to follow green list guidance – which means they will have to take tests before and after travelling home.
Such a plan will open up the possibility of quarantine-free travel to most major holiday destinations in Europe and the US.
No10 this afternoon stressed that no decisions had yet been made, with the PM’s official spokesman saying: ‘As we have always set out, we want people to be able to travel abroad as soon as it is safe to do so.
Britain’s death toll stands at 14 today, a rise of two on the 12 recorded this day last week
Government data up to June 18 shows that of the 73,766,593 jabs given in the UK so far, 42,679,268 were first doses – a rise of 218,636 on the previous day
Foreign destinations on the UK’s amber list and whether they are open or closed to UK visitors.
Freedom day delay ‘cost the Tories by-election’: Senior Tories claim the four-week extension played a major part in shock Chesham and Amersham defeat
Ministers say Boris Johnson’s decision to delay Freedom Day is one of the reasons for the Tories’ shock loss in last week’s Chesham and Amersham by-election.
They told The Mail on Sunday that the Prime Minister’s decision to postpone the lifting of social distancing measures from June 21 to July 19 ‘must have had an effect’ on Thursday’s vote, which saw the Liberal Democrats overturn a Tory majority of 16,000.
The private warnings came from Ministers who would be punished by party whips if they dared to speak out in public.
But senior backbencher and former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said openly that postponing Freedom Day probably contributed to the Tory rout. He said: ‘I suspect a number of Tory voters didn’t vote, taking the view that as the Government decided not to get things moving again, they would stay at home on polling day.’
Last week’s result stunned the Tory high command, leading to recriminations among strategists over the party’s failure to detect – and arrest – the surge in support for Sir Ed Davey’s party.
Tory backbenchers immediately warned Mr Johnson not to neglect the concerns of the party’s southern heartlands in his eagerness to shore up support in ex-Labour seats in the North which turned Tory for the first time at the 2019 General Election.
Party HQ’s post-mortem on the by-election shock in the Home Counties seat, which had never before failed to elect a Tory MP, focused last week on what Mr Johnson called ‘particular circumstances’ in the seat – opposition to the HS2 rail link which gouges through the local countryside, anger over plans for more housebuilding and opposition to Brexit.
‘Currently we have set out a traffic light system for international travel.
‘We are always learning more about the virus and its variants and at this stage in the pandemic our current approach is the right one but we keep our measures under review.
‘That was set out clearly in both the roadmap and the global travel task force report. On the point about double vaccinations, absolutely no decisions have been made on that.’
It comes as, in a further boost to the travel industry, America’s chief medical advisor says Britons might be able to travel more freely to the US by the end of summer.
‘We have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel,’ a DfT spokesman said.
Under the current traffic light system, travellers returning from green list countries take Covid-19 tests but do not need to quarantine. Amber country arrivals must self-isolate, and red country arrivals must quarantine in a hotel.
But in a sign of frustration among industry leaders over continuing restrictions, outspoken Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary launched a blistering attack on ministers who he branded ‘incompetent’.
It comes as the airline and bosses behind three English airports launch a legal challenge against the Government in a bid to force ministers to reveal their reasoning behind where countries are placed in its traffic light system.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has fought for tough border restrictions, is said to be ‘open’ to changing the traffic light system, with the double-jab policy one of the prime options.
A senior source told the Telegraph: ‘They haven’t definitely got there yet, but that’s the direction of travel.
The plans are expected to be ready to be discussed by the Cabinet Covid operations committee. It is thought the plans could be discussed ahead of the next review of the traffic light system, which is due to take place on June 28.
The source added: ‘It is still at an early stage and it is not clear whether it will be worked out in time for the end of the month. There is an awful lot to do. The devil is in the detail.’
The latest move would also bring the UK closer in line with at least 33 countries including France, Germany, Spain and Greece that exempt vaccinated travellers from quarantine.
It comes as America’s chief medical advisor says Britons might be able to travel more freely to the US by the end of summer.
Dr Anthony Fauci said it was a ‘reasonably good prediction’ to think that people could expect to have an easier time moving between the two countries.
He claimed that Britain could find itself in a ‘very favourable position’ thanks to the Government’s ‘prudent’ decision to delay the June 21 Freedom Day.
Dr Fauci told ITV News: ‘You really can’t tell because things happen, variants occur, things happen with regards to infection.
‘I think once they get more and more people vaccinated and get the people who’ve gotten a single dose to make sure they get their second dose, I think the UK is going to be in a very favourable position by the time we get to the end of the summer.’
But he also warned that richer countries must unite in an effort to help those who cannot vaccinate their populations, or another Covid variant could emerge and spread in Britain or the US.
Dr Fauci said we had been ‘quite fortunate’ that the Kent Alpha variant and the Indian Delta variant have been sensitive to the current vaccines.
When asked if coronavirus might be under control by September next year, Dr Fauci said: ‘I think in countries like the UK and the United States and other countries in the European Union, that will be the case. But it will really be solely dependent upon the degree of successful vaccination.’
Ryanair and bosses behind three major English airports are preparing to take the Government to court over its travel traffic light system, which they say is bringing the industry to its knees.
Jabs were being administered at stadiums and football grounds in London that had been transformed into mass vaccination centres
Teenagers rush for Covid jab as 700,000 vaccines are booked in one day
More than 700,000 Covid-19 jabs were booked on the day the NHS vaccination programme was opened up to people aged 18 to 20.
People in England made 721,469 appointments through the national booking service on Friday, more than 30,000 an hour or more than eight every second.
NHS England said this does not include appointments made through local GP-led vaccination services, or people getting jabbed at walk-in centres.
Everyone aged 18 and over is being urged to arrange a jab if they have not yet had one, as the health service enters the final push to protect the country against the virus.
On Saturday, thousands of jabs were administered after stadiums and football grounds in London were transformed into mass vaccination centres.
Giant jab clinics were set up at the Olympic Stadium, Stamford Bridge, Tottenham Hotspur FC, Charlton Athletic FC, Selhurst Park and Crystal Palace Athletics Centre.
NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘This pandemic has been a challenge for everyone but the various restrictions have hit young people particularly hard.
‘That’s why it’s good news that Covid vaccinations are now open to all adults across the country, and already well over three million people in their twenties have now had their first jab.
‘So if you’re 18 and over and haven’t yet had yours, now’s the time. It’s the single easiest way to protect yourself, keep friends and family safe, and hopefully give us all our summer freedoms back.’
The budget airline is set to be joined by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – the operator of Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports – in launching a High Court challenge.
The legal bid will seek to force the Government to reveal how it decides which countries are placed on the green, amber and red travel lists.
It comes as outspoken Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary blasted ministers as ‘incompetent’ in a scathing attack on the Government’s transport policy.
Speaking to the Telegraph, who first revealed Ryanair’s anticipated legal challenge, Mr O’Leary said: ‘I’ve never come across a more incompetent f****** front bench of ministers.
‘I have no faith in (Boris) Johnson’s government on any of these issues, having completely mismanaged the original lockdowns last year and the reopening now.’
On the upcoming legal challenge, he added: ‘[We are] trying to force the Government to at least either a) be more transparent [over the traffic light system], b) publish what exactly the thresholds are at which international travel … will be allowed to restart.
‘Or c) get some injunctive relief against the Government generally on the back of vaccines that says the longer lockdown is restricting people’s freedom of movement.’
He later told Sky News: ‘It’s typical of Boris Johnson’s Government, just making this stuff up as they go along. There is no green list.
‘What we keep calling for in the travel industry is, now that we have 80% of the adult population of Britain vaccinated, why can’t those people go on holidays to Portugal and Spain without restrictions? They’re already vaccinated.’
The Government says ‘traffic light system cautiously balances the reopening of international travel with managing the risk of imported variants’ and ‘ensures we keep the general public safe’.
However, the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council said the Government must scrap the system, which it says has ‘wreaked havoc’ among consumers and businesses, in order to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The traffic light system means those travelling into the UK from green list countries need only to provide a negative Covid test within three days their journey and take another test within two days of arriving here.
But only a small handful of countries are on the green list, including Israel and Iceland, but none are traditionally major holiday hot-spots for UK tourists.
Most of those countries, such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and the Caribbean islands, are on the amber list.
Those returning from amber list countries must provide a negative Covid test before travelling, and then self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days on their return.
Arrivals from red list entries – who can only be UK citizens or residents – must isolate in a quarantine hotel for at least 10 days and provide two negative Covid tests.
Mr O’Leary’s latest blistering critique of the Government comes after he yesterday accused the Prime Minister of doing too little for the travel industry, as he questioned why the jabbed could not go on holiday abroad.
Mr O’Leary said: ‘UK citizens, almost 80 per cent of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face Covid restrictions on travel to and from the European Union, despite the fact that the majority of the European Union citizens will also be vaccinated by the end of June.
‘UK tourism and aviation needs a pragmatic travel policy, which permits vaccinated UK and EU citizens to travel between the UK and the EU without the need for quarantine or negative PCR tests.
‘This will at least allow the UK tourism industry to plan for what is left of the summer season and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work.
‘The UK’s Covid travel policy is a shambles. The Green List is non-existent because countries such as Malta and Portugal, with lower Covid case numbers than the UK and rapidly rising vaccination rates, remain on Amber.’
Meanwhile, the EU continued to make travel difficult for British tourists, after it widened its ‘white list’ to include the US – but not the UK – which allow non essential travel.
The whitelist will now reportedly be expanded to include Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, the United States, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.
It joins Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China.
It comes after a leaked document gave a glimpse of the UK’s potential ‘new normal’, with facemasks, working from home and travel quarantine rules set to stay even beyond July 19.
The Whitehall paper suggests that the government will stop short of urging workers to return to offices even after the new target for lifting restrictions finally arrives.
There is also a suggestion that face masks will be needed in some settings long-term, as well as keeping post-travel isolation rules.
Anyone who has coronavirus symptoms will still be expected to isolate, according to the draft proposals. And fears have been raised that more restrictions will be needed if the disease surges again in the winter.
The document – seen by Politico – emerged as Boris Johnson’s crunch bill to delay the return to freedom passed through the House of Commons, winning 461 ayes and 60 noes.
For now, limits on numbers for sports events, theatres and cinemas will remain in place, nightclubs will stay shuttered and people will be asked to continue working from home where possible.
Downing Street said it did not recognise the Politico document and it ‘does not reflect the latest Government thinking’.
Mr Johnson insisted to MPs at PMQs that the Covid rules were temporary.
Responding to Tory backbencher Philip Davies he said: ‘Nobody, least of all me, wants to see Covid restrictions last forever, nor do I think they are going to last forever.’