England will allow fully vaccinated visitors from the European Union and United States to arrive without needing to quarantine from next week, in a huge and long-awaited boost for airlines and travel companies.
Britain's travel industry has criticised the government for being too slow to open up, saying it has squandered its lead in the global vaccine rollout and given the EU a headstart in attracting tourists.
Now, from Aug 2, travellers with US and EU-approved vaccines will not have to quarantine. Lifting the same requirement for fully vaccinated Britons returning from medium risk countries in July helped to kickstart a travel recovery.
The new rule applies to England but is widely expected to be followed by the rest of Britain shortly. The government said international cruise sailings could also restart from England.
Airlines such as British Airways and Britain's biggest airport Heathrow, weighed down by cumulative pandemic losses of US$4 billion, welcomed the move but said more was needed to be done if the industry was to recover from the collapse in demand.
Top of the list is a reopening of the UK-US travel corridor which is still affected by a ban on all non-US citizens who have been in Britain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted US citizens to come to England "freely" and was discussing making changes.
Travellers also still have to take an expensive Covid-19 test before departure and shortly after arrival in England.
BA Chief Executive Sean Doyle said the company's trials had proved it could check travellers for vaccination status quickly and safely.
"This step will allow us to reunite loved ones and get Global Britain back in business, giving the economy the vital boost it so badly needs," he said in a statement.
Changing the quarantine rules for the United States and EU will ease access to some of Britain's biggest markets for visitor volumes. It will also help companies drum up business after 16 months of restrictions left many of them under severe financial strain.
Shares in British Airways were up 3% while easyJet rose 4% and Wizz Air jumped 7%. Airlines make nearly all their profits during the summer season and easyJet had said this month that it was directing more flights to Europe where there is more demand.
"It's the right thing, it should be done, but like I said it is little bit too late," easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren told LBC.
Britain will review the status of travellers from France at the end of next week.
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