Brits could avoid quarantine on return from foreign holidays as UK gears up to reopen travel

Suban Abdulla
·4-min read
Passenger airplane landing at dusk
Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on 5 April that foreign travel will be allowed to reopen under a traffic light system once the coronavirus restrictions ease. Photo: Getty

Vaccinated British travellers returning to the UK from overseas could avoid coronavirus tests a quarantine once the travel sector opens up. 

According the Telegraph, returnees to Great Britain will be expected to have pre-departure COVID tests regardless of their vaccination status, under plans from the government's Global Travel Taskforce (GTT). 

But, people who are fully vaccinated could need fewer tests after visiting low-risk nations and may avoid the 10-day quarantine on return from medium-risk countries. 

It is understood the proposal will mean that arrivals to the UK will need to have a negative COVID test prior to their departure, to be allowed entry. Their vaccination status is what could determine what happens once they come to the UK and whether they have to quarantine.

The majority of foreign travel in and out of the UK is currently banned, however the GTT, which was due to report on potential new rules on 12 April, could now publish it as soon as this Monday. 

Any changes are expected to come into effect in accordance with the unlocking roadmap from 17 May — the earliest date when foreign travel could resume. 

Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce on 5 April that foreign travel will be allowed to reopen under a traffic light system once the coronavirus restrictions ease. 

READ MORE: Heathrow backs traffic light quarantine system in plea for summer holidays

The traffic light system will rank countries green, amber or red according to risk level, which are based on vaccination progress, COVID-19 cases and variants. 

"Green" listed countries would mean all limits are eliminated, while "amber" would mean a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime.

An amber alert would apply over a "variant of concern" found in a country and the uncertainty it might pose to the UK's vaccine rollout, the newspaper said. 

Travellers from countries on the red list could be either barred from entering the UK, or people arriving back from such destinations will have to pay to stay at quarantine hotels for up to 10 days, which is the current set-up for the worst affected nations.

On Friday, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced it would ban visitors entering the UK from the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya and Bangladesh from 4am on 9 April. 

Last week, UK's largest airport Heathrow threw its support behind a traffic light system in a bid to ease COVID-19 restrictions sooner.

WATCH: Vaccine passports: problem, or pass to normality?

Johnson also said on Friday, that vaccine passports will "definitely" play a role in the reopening of international travel. 

"On the issue of vaccine certification, there's definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports," he said. 

He pointed to other countries who have implemented similar moves, saying: "You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in those and there's a logic to that."

Earlier in March, British Airways (BA) announced it will introduce digital global vaccine passports in time for the planned reopening of international travel from 17 May.

BA, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L), will ask people who received their two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to log their details with their BA app, to prove that they are safe to fly.

Additionally, BA's boss has also called for unrestricted travel for those who have been vaccinated and for non-vaccinated people with a negative coronavirus test as the industry gears up for overseas travel to recommence.

READ MORE: BA considers using large jets for UK post-lockdown holiday boom

Meanwhile, regulators in Britain and the EU gave the green light to 20-second COVID rapid tests last week to help speed up testing capacity and aid the travel sector as economies reopen.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the registration of the fully-recyclable product, which is provided by London-based firm Histate.

The rapid test, known as Virolens, has been piloted at Heathrow Airport and uses swabs of the cheeks instead of through the nose and tonsils.

The company said it was hoping for a wider rollout over the coming months after trials indicated that the test had 98.1% sensitivity, meaning it returns few false negatives, and 99.7% specificity, meaning few false positives.

Histate added that the results were the “minimum baseline,” and that they could even be more accurate.

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