Britain considers vaccine passports to restart international travel

People who have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to avoid quarantine on their return from amber list countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain is looking at easing travel restrictions, including allowing those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 to enjoy a foreign holiday without intrusive red tape, a step that indicates vaccine passports are firmly back on the agenda.

Countries in the European Union last week agreed to an easing of travel restrictions over summer that will allow fully vaccinated tourists to avoid tests or quarantines and broaden the list of EU regions from which it is safe to travel.

Britain, whose vaccination programme has seen more than half of adults receive both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, is now considering similar plans, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Asked about the report, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said that nothing was ruled out in considering how to reopen travel, but they would be cautious in introducing plans for so-called "vaccine passports".

"We are trying to move cautiously and progressively in the right direction so I wouldn't write anything off at this point," Mr Norman told Sky News, adding that the virus was not something that could be controlled. "(So) it would be imprudent to make any carte blanche or... firm statement now."

He said it would be important to consider issues of fairness for those who have yet to be offered shots, or are unable to have them.

Under the plans, people who have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to avoid quarantine on their return from amber list countries, although they will still have to be tested, the newspaper said.

It added that officials are still working on whether any new regime would be limited to returning Britons or apply to all arrivals, the newspaper said.

Britain allowed international travel to resume last month, but nearly all major destinations were left off its list of countries open for quarantine-free holidays.

The looming summer holiday season has prompted Irish airline Ryanair to launch a legal challenge against Britain over its traffic light system, hoping to force a relaxation of strict rules.

The airline has teamed up with Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and the pair plan to file papers at England's High Court on Thursday (June 17) to seek clarity over the transparency of the system, a MAG spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. Other airlines are expected to join the legal action.

With just weeks before the peak July and August travel season when most profits are made, the aviation industry is worried about losing another summer to Covid-19 as the British government blocks most travel, meaning more job losses and financial strain.

The industry has repeatedly criticised the government's traffic light system for international destinations, saying it is unpredictable and doesn't make scientific sense. It says some low-risk countries and islands should be open for travel.

Under the current traffic light system, travellers returning from green list countries, of which Singapore is one, take Covid-19 tests but do not need to quarantine.

Amber country arrivals must self-isolate, and red country arrivals must quarantine in a hotel. Countries on the amber list include Spain, France, Italy and the United States.

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