Travel stocks rallied in London on Thursday, bucking the wider downturn across Europe, as the UK government revealed that fully vaccinated people can now return from amber-listed countries without the need to quarantine for 10 days.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that the change in England, which potentially opens up travel to 140 countries, will take effect from 19 July.
"I can confirm today that from 19 July, UK residents who are fully vaccinated through the UK vaccine rollout will no longer have to self-isolate when they return to England," Mr Shapps told the Commons.
"In essence, this means that for fully vaccinated travellers, the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same."
He warned, however, that amber destinations could still be moved to the red list if circumstances change, and that travel this year will be nothing like it was before the pandemic due to delays and changes.
Shares in British Airways owner IAG (IAG.L) climbed higher on the back of the news, topping the FTSE 100 risers’ board before retreating slightly. It is currently up 0.7% while easyJet (EZJ.L) has risen 0.6%.
“After months of stomach-turning turbulence, the travel sector has flown into brighter skies with the announcement that double-vaccinated UK travellers would be able to return from countries graded as amber on the UK travel list without needing to quarantine,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“A lift-off in flight bookings is now expected, and the airlines have been keen to stress they are ready to move quickly to capitalise on pent-up demand.”
Tour operator TUI (TUI.L) managed to recover some of the ground it lost on Thursday, with expectations of a flood of enquiries for last-minute package holidays, while the news also gave Rolls-Royce (RR.L) a recovery boost.
Streeter added: “The group’s core business is servicing and delivering wide body aircraft engines, which are used primarily for long-haul flights, so its longer-term prospects now look a little brighter.”
The move now means that Brits can travel to popular European tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece and Portugal, although these countries can still impose their own quarantine rules on arrival.
Travellers will still have to take pre-departure tests and will be required to take a PCR test on day two of their return. However, there will no longer be a test on day eight. Children under the age of 18 will not have to isolate on return if arriving from amber list countries, Shapps confirmed.
The government will count full vaccination as meaning 14 days have passed since the final dose of a vaccine – proof of this can be shown in the form of the NHS COVID pass or via a letter.
It comes as the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, continues to spread in the UK. It is currently the dominant strain of the coronavirus in Britain, making up around 95% of new cases.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: "This is excellent news that will give a much-needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad."
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “Today's foreign travel announcement is a positive move towards the genuine reopening the sector has been looking for. The summer season essentially starts here.”
"Opening up the market for the rest of the summer, this announcement will provide far greater opportunities to travel, do business and see family and friends, and enable many more of our customers to book with certainty," he added.
"We now urge the government to continue this momentum by adding many more countries to the green list next week and removing onerous testing requirements at its next review on 31 July, thereby opening up more non-quarantine travel to all."
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