Airlines lobby UK government to ease travel restrictions

LONDON – Airlines and holiday providers expressed frustration with UK on Friday plans to relax travel restrictions, saying that uncertainty about how and when to implement the rules makes it difficult to book summer vacations.

The government on Thursday expanded its “green list” of safe travel destinations, allowing people to visit without having to self-isolate for 10 days after returning to Britain. All but one additions have also been placed on a watch list, meaning the quarantine requirement may be reimposed in the short term.

Transport authorities have said they intend to ease travel restrictions by allowing fully vaccinated travelers to visit high-risk destinations, including the United States and most of the European Union, without having to isolate yourself. They expect to implement this change “later in the summer”.

“The UK has already behind on the reopening of the EU, and an overly cautious approach continues to impact the economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs at stake, ”said Shai Weiss, managing director of Virgin Atlantic, which mainly operates long-haul flights to destinations such as New York, Los Angeles and Barbados.

Airlines and hotel companies have lobbied the government to ease travel restrictions imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19 after the success of the UK’s vaccination program. The pandemic has devastated the UK travel industry; the number of people passing through London’s busiest Heathrow Airport fell 73% last year.

The government created a traffic light system to manage the reopening of air transport. Destinations with low levels of COVID-19 and high levels of vaccination are placed on the ‘green list’, which allows for pleasure travel and does not require self-isolation upon return to Britain. Only essential travel is allowed to “Orange List” countries, but travelers must self-isolate for 10 days upon their return home. The government has banned most travel to “red list” destinations and anyone arriving from any of those countries is subject to a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own expense.

The lists are updated every three weeks.

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The Transport Department said Thursday evening that the extension of the green list and plans to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated travelers were the result of the vaccination program. Almost 61% of UK adults are fully vaccinated and 83% have received at least one dose.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said caution was always in order.

“It won’t be quite like 2019 and the good old days, but we are moving in a positive direction,” Shapps told Sky News.

Public health authorities are concerned that travelers could spread potentially more dangerous variants of COVID-19 to the UK from countries with low vaccination rates. The delta variant, first identified in India, has become the dominant version of the virus in Britain.

Regardless of UK policy, European Union officials are considering imposing a quarantine on UK travelers over concerns over the delta variant which is 40% to 60% more transmissible than previous versions of COVID-19. In published minutes of government meetings this month, experts said the delta variant could be linked to a higher risk of hospitalization, although “the numbers are still low,” and there is no evidence that the variant. be more deadly.

Diana Holland, deputy general secretary of the Unite union, said the government needs to change its approach to provide greater certainty for the travel industry and consumers.

“The traffic light system is just not suitable for its purpose,” she said. “It’s impossible for a multi-billion pound industry to plan for the future when the rug can be pulled out every three weeks.”

The government on Thursday added more than a dozen countries and territories to its green list, including popular holiday destinations Malta, Madeira and the Balearic Islands. All destinations except Malta have been placed on the watch list.

The changes, which take effect at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, will expand the green list to 27 countries and territories.

The other additions are: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, Barbados and Grenada .

Britain also added six countries to the Red List, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Uganda. This brings the number of countries covered to 56.

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