UK considers easing restrictions for double-vaccinated travelers

2021-06-18 09:59:57China Daily Editor : Zhang Dongfang ECNS App Download
Special: Battle Against Novel Coronavirus

The British government is considering easing restrictions on international travel for those who are double vaccinated against COVID-19.

A government spokesperson confirmed to Sky News on Thursday that it is "working with industry for a safe return to international travel, guided by one overwhelming priority-public health".

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Britain was looking to follow the European Union's move to allow fully vaccinated tourists to avoid COVID-19 tests and quarantine from July.

Those who have had two jabs would avoid having to quarantine on their return from countries on the so-called amber list of risk threat in the traffic light system, although they would still have to be tested, said the Telegraph.

According to government figures, more than half of adults in the United Kingdom have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman told Sky News on Thursday that the government was considering all options on how to re-open travel.

He said: "We are trying to move cautiously and progressively in the right direction so I wouldn't write anything off at this point.

"But then we are in a situation where the virus is not something we control and we have seen this new delta variant, so it would be imprudent to make any carte blanche or firm statement now."

He added: "Recognizing the strong strategic rationale and success of the vaccine program, we have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel."

The Telegraph said Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, was understood to be "open" to the changes.

The paper said officials are still working on what exemptions there could be for those not vaccinated, whether children should be exempt, and whether new rules would apply to all arrivals or only returning British residents.

A senior source told the paper: "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."

Airlines, including Ryanair, British Airways and easyJet, have repeatedly called for vaccinated travelers to be allowed to avoid quarantine.

The Reuters news agency reported that airlines are desperate for restrictions to be relaxed in time for July and the peak season when they make most of their profits. Demand for travel collapsed in March last year when the UK went into lockdown in response to the pandemic, and it has yet to recover.

Ryanair, and the owner of Manchester and Stansted airports, were expected to launch legal action on Thursday, amid frustrations around the so-called traffic light system, reported Sky News.

UK residents are currently discouraged from visiting favorite summer holiday destinations on the nation's amber list, such as Spain and France, as government guidelines state they must quarantine at home for 10 days upon return.

It is hoped any change to travel rules would encourage more young people to get vaccinated ahead of the summer holiday season, said Sky News.

There is concern that COVID-19 in England is spreading again, with growth being driven by younger age groups not yet immunized, a study suggests.

Researchers from Imperial College London working on the REACT study, which looks at how the virus is progressing in the UK, have said the rollout of vaccinations to younger people is key to reducing further spread.

New data from the study, based on almost 110,000 home swab tests taken between May 20 and June 7, estimates that roughly 1 in 670 people had the virus, which it said was a 50 percent increase compared to the study's previous findings.

The scientists estimate that the reproduction number is 1.44, meaning 10 infected people would pass the virus on to 14 others on average, resulting in fast growth of the epidemic.

However, the latest daily data from the government shows tentative signs growth may be beginning to slow, said BBC health correspondent, Nick Triggle.

He commented on Thursday that the picture presented by REACT is one from 10 days ago, and that although last week cases appeared to be doubling every 10 days, "this week that has slowed to something closer to 14 days".

He said: "It still means the epidemic is growing - but it is the first sign of a flattening of cases."


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