Summer holidays are set for July 19 take-off! Fully-vaccinated travellers could avoid quarantine


Boris Johnson is set to tear up travel quarantine rules from as early as July 19, allowing millions of fully-vaccinated Britons to take summer holidays abroad without having to self-isolate.

Ministers are expected to make a final decision tomorrow on exactly when to drop the requirement for double-jabbed travellers to quarantine after returning from amber list destinations such as France, Spain and Greece.

But multiple sources told the Mail that the Prime Minister is determined to implement the move on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, when most remaining domestic restrictions will be scrapped.

It follows the departure of former health secretary Matt Hancock, who had pushed for the change to be delayed until as late as mid-August.

Whitehall sources said Border Force – which had asked for more time to prepare for introducing the change at ports and airports – has now dropped its objections, removing the last major hurdle to early implementation.

One source said: ‘Border Force do have to make some technical changes and they had asked for a bit longer to get the new systems in place. But they can see the writing on the wall on this and they have accepted it will be the 19th.’

Another source said: ‘It is not just that people can see the writing on the wall – they can see it is the Prime Minister who is writing it and the objections to the 19th are falling away.’

But significant concerns remain over the logistics of the decision, including the possibility of long queues at the border due to a surge in passenger numbers and checks. A Whitehall source told The Times the policy ‘will happen before August’. 

And airlines are now set to reveal a trial system to be introduced this week for passengers to provide proof of vaccination at check-in and upon arriving in Britain, using dedicated arrivals lanes to let credentials be verified. 

Boris Johnson is set to tear up travel quarantine rules from as early as July 19, allowing millions of fully-vaccinated Britons to take summer holidays abroad without having to self-isolate (stock image, Athens, Greece)

Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, June 29

Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, June 29

The system, running on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights into Heathrow, is an attempt to prove the ease with which vaccine status could be checked without creating queuing havoc.

Chief executive of Virgin Atlantic Shai Weiss said: ‘To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout the UK government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from amber countries and no later than the domestic reopening on July 19.’

Chief executive of Heathrow John Holland-Kaye said: ‘This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check-in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19.’

Downing Street said a final decision had not been made on the timing of the change to current travel quarantine rules but acknowledged it was now likely to be this month rather than August.

The move could open up dozens of popular holiday destinations for fully-vaccinated travellers. Most European countries are currently on the amber list, as are the United States, Mexico, Thailand and many Caribbean destinations.

At present, only travellers returning from a small green list of countries can avoid quarantine when they return to the UK. Government advice remains not to holiday in amber list countries. And if they do, travellers have to quarantine at home for ten days but they can be released after five days if they pay for a PCR test.

Under the proposal, the government advice will be dropped and fully-vaccinated UK residents will be allowed to travel home from amber countries without the need to quarantine. Children, who are not eligible for vaccination, will be exempted from self-isolation if they are travelling with family. But they will have to take additional tests. Ministers will finalise the plan for children tomorrow.

Those who have not received both vaccines will still have to quarantine when they arrive in the UK or face a £10,000 fine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured) and Chancellor Rishi Sunak both pushed for July 19 to allow the industry to maximise the school summer holidays. But Mr Hancock and Michael Gove wanted to delay until August

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured) and Chancellor Rishi Sunak both pushed for July 19 to allow the industry to maximise the school summer holidays. But Mr Hancock and Michael Gove wanted to delay until August

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox last night called on ministers to act after they agreed to curb self-isolation rules for the double-jabbed. Dr Fox said it was time for 'the same common sense to apply to international travel' (pictured: Italy)

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox last night called on ministers to act after they agreed to curb self-isolation rules for the double-jabbed. Dr Fox said it was time for ‘the same common sense to apply to international travel’ (pictured: Italy)

The change will make no difference to red list countries such as India, Turkey and Brazil.

Anyone returning from a red list country must quarantine in an approved hotel at a cost of £1,750 each. People returning from amber list countries will also continue to have to pay for a pre-flight test, followed by a second test two days after their arrival home. But they will not have to pay for a further test eight days after they land as they do at present.

The change to quarantine rules has been a key demand of the beleaguered travel sector.

But the timing of the move split the Cabinet. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak both pushed for July 19 to allow the industry to maximise the school summer holidays. But Mr Hancock and Michael Gove wanted to delay until August.

Mr Hancock’s replacement by the more business-friendly Sajid Javid helped tip the balance in favour of opening up early.

Former cabinet minister Liam Fox last night called on ministers to act after they agreed to curb self-isolation rules for the double-jabbed. Dr Fox said it was time for ‘the same common sense to apply to international travel’.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport yesterday launched a trial in which fully-vaccinated passengers will be asked to submit proof of their inoculation status before flying.

Travellers of all nationalities on flights into the UK from the US, Europe and the Caribbean will present their vaccination credentials in paper and digital format.

Data from the trial, designed to show vaccination status can be checked quickly at airports, will be shared with ministers. It will put pressure on the Government to introduce plans for quarantine-free travel for double-jabbed people by July 19.

Earlier this year queues of up to seven hours were seen at Heathrow as a result of the Covid paperwork border guards had to check.

BA chief Sean Doyle said: ‘We need to act quickly to protect jobs, re-build the UK economy and reunite loved ones. We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully-vaccinated status to be verified.’ Shai Weiss, head of Virgin Atlantic, said the UK’s cautious approach will ‘further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake’.

And Heathrow’s boss John Holland-Kaye said: ‘This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check-in, so that fully-vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19.’

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