Boris Johnson to open England's borders to fully vaccinated travellers from EU and US

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Passengers Charlotte, 29, and Frank, 30, Piazza arrive at Heathrow Airport as they return from Mykonos in Greece, after the Government added the islands of Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos, also known as Zante to the quarantine list. From 4am on Wednesday, arrivals from the seven Greek islands will need to self-isolate for 14 days - but mainland Greece will maintain its quarantine-exemption.
Fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and US are set to be spared quarantine upon arrival to England. (PA)

England is to reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the US.

It will mean double-jabbed people from the EU and the US will be able to enter without having to subsequently quarantine for 10 days.

The plans were approved at a meeting of senior ministers on Wednesday, and will come into force on Monday.

First of all, what are the current rules?

Since England’s coronavirus lockdown ended on 19 July, people who have been vaccinated under the UK programme do not have to quarantine upon entering from an amber list country.

The US and most EU countries are currently on the amber list.

Watch: Wednesday's politics briefing

The 19 July removal of quarantine does not apply to people vaccinated in the US or EU – but that is what is set to change following the government's announcement.

What will fully vaccinated travellers from the US or EU have to do from Monday?

They will only need to take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on or before the second day after their arrival.

With no quarantine, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK.”

What about the devolved nations?

It has not been announced whether the change will apply to people arriving in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Why is Boris Johnson keen to reopen the borders?

The prime minister has frequently rued the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the general economy, and travel and tourism industries.

Indeed, his former chief adviser Dominic Cummings said in his explosive House of Commons testimony in May that Johnson “never wanted a proper border policy”, claiming the PM said “the travel industry will all be destroyed if we bring in a serious border policy”.

NHS leaders have pleaded for more funding from Boris Johnson ahead of potentially 'one of the most difficult winters the NHS has ever faced'. (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has often rued the impact of COVID restrictions on the economy. (Getty Images)

In a report on Wednesday, The Times said Johnson was frustrated at the EU being ahead in allowing international travel and believes the UK is “squandering its vaccine bonus”.

According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, only three countries have administered a bigger share of double jabs than the UK, as demonstrated by this chart.

The percentage of fully vaccinated populations in the 27 EU countries and UK. (Our World in Data)
The percentage of fully vaccinated populations in the 27 EU countries and UK. (Our World in Data)

Companies from the aviation industry, meanwhile, had pushed hard for a relaxation of the rules.

What about countries aside from the EU and US?

Quarantine rules will continue to apply for the time being.

Is there a risk associated with reopening the borders for fully vaccinated travellers?

Borders have long been a sensitive topic for the government, as mentioned above.

Downing Street has faced accusations that lax border policy allowed the spread of Delta variant infections, causing the third wave of cases – though recent data suggests that is tailing off, with nowhere near the level of hospital admissions and deaths that were seen at the peak of the second wave in the winter.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner labelled the latest policy "reckless" on Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, Mike Tildesley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, said there is a risk to reopening the borders – but added it’s “practical”.

He told Times Radio: “If people are double vaccinated, if people are coming from countries that have similar levels of infection to ours, and no real risk of variants of concern that might be introduced into the country, then it’s probably a practical decision that has to be made to try to support the tourist industry.”

Watch: Labour criticises government's 'reckless' travel approach

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