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UK travel: expect hassles and delays, Johnson warns (Updated)

Cancelled Flights At Heathrow Airport
Heathrow airport

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that travellers would face hassle and delays this year if they sought to go abroad because the priority would be keeping the country safe from the coronavirus.

“I want to stress that this is going to be, whatever happens, a difficult year for travel: there will be hassle, there will be delays, I’m afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and to stop the virus coming back in,” Johnson said.

Asked if the government was looking at easing the rules for those who have been double-vaccinated, Johnson said: “We’re looking at it but I want to stress that the emphasis is going to be on making sure that we can protect the country from the virus coming back in.”

Britain is piloting a plan to ditch the self-isolation requirement for people who have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine if they are exposed to someone with the virus, health minister Matt Hancock said on Monday.

“We’re piloting that now to check that that will be effective. It is something that we’re working on, we’re not ready to be able to take that step yet.”

Meanwhile, the aviation industry on Monday demanded that Britain removes COVID testing and isolation requirements for fully vaccinated travellers from most countries, a step already being taken in the European Union to help tourism recover.

Airlines UK said in a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that fully vaccinated travellers from “amber” destinations should be exempt from the 10-day isolation requirement, while those coming from both “amber” and “green” countries should not need to have expensive PCR tests.

“Given the incredible efficacy of vaccines and their critical role in easing domestic restrictions, we believe that the framework can safely be adjusted to provide a pathway for vaccinated people to travel without restriction, alongside steps to reduce restrictions for green and amber categories, making them more proportionate for travellers,” the group said.

Data confirming that vaccines are more than 90% effective against hospitalisation from the fast-growing Delta variation should be considered when measures that apply to each tier of Britain’s traffic light system for travel are reviewed on June 28, it said.

“This effectiveness has been recognised by Europe, which is now opening its travel and leisure markets by introducing waivers from testing and isolation requirements for fully vaccinated persons, including arrivals from major markets such as the United States,” it said.

“Today 32 countries exempt travellers from quarantine and 27 from testing if fully vaccinated. The failure to adopt a similar approach risks the UK falling further behind the EU’s reopening of international travel, including the critical trans-Atlantic market.”

Popular European holiday destinations for Britons, including Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece, are currently rated “amber”, which require returning passengers to take three COVID-19 tests and isolate for 10 days on return.

The 11 countries and territories rated “green” require two tests for passengers, including those who are fully vaccinated.

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