Covid: Britain, pressed by airlines, may ease rules for vaccinated travellers

London - The measures are "under review," according to a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

By Reuters

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Published: Thu 17 Jun 2021, 4:44 PM

Britain is considering easing travel rules for double vaccinated people, a move that would placate airlines which are threatening legal action against the government's curbs on trips abroad.

Airlines are desperate for restrictions to be relaxed in time for July and the peak season when they make most profits. But Britain has for now stuck to quarantine rules that deter travel.

Europe's biggest airline Ryanair is set to launch legal action on Thursday against Britain over its travel policy, a campaign other airlines could join. read more

But Britain has indicated a possible relaxation. The Department for Transport said on Thursday it was considering how vaccinations could be used for inbound travel.

Shares in airline stocks jumped on hopes of rule changes. Ryanair and British Airways-owned IAG (ICAG.L) were up 3%, while easyJet and holiday group TUI were 4% higher. Jet2 (JET2.L) rose 5%.

Peel Hunt analyst Alex Paterson said the government's more open minded approach represented progress for an industry which has endured more than 15 months of depressed revenues.

"From the point of view of sentiment that they're saying they're going to look at this, that is good news," he said.

Ryanair and other airlines have repeatedly called on the government to allow vaccinated travellers to avoid quarantine, as well as urging an easing of restrictions to some lower risk countries like Malta and Spanish and Greek islands.

EasyJet said it was supportive of legal action and would monitor its progress.

Ryanair's boss Michael O'Leary has said Britain's travel policy was "a shambles", describing it as an "opaque" system classifying destinations as green, amber or red, with each colour carrying progressively tougher rules related to testing and quarantine.

The government delayed fully reopening the domestic economy on Monday due to rising infections. But industry hopes have grown with indications Britain may now soften its stance on travel.

"This is very welcome news and should represent a meaningful restart to international travel in the very near future," Jet2 chief executive Steve Heapy said on Thursday.

The safe list of 'green' destinations is due to be updated on June 24 and the government said in April it would review travel policy before the end of June.

Jesse Norman, financial secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News on Thursday that nothing was ruled out on travel rules.

"We are trying to move cautiously and progressively in the right direction so I wouldn't write anything off at this point," he said.

Britain allowed international travel to resume in May, but nearly all major destinations like Spain, France, Italy and the United States were left off the 'green' safe list. Those visiting 'amber' countries must quarantine for 10 days on their return and take multiple tests. 'Red' countries have tougher rules.

No decision has been made yet on whether to ease travel restrictions for those people who have received two COVID-19 vaccines, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.

Asked whether he could confirm that double vaccinated people could be exempt from quarantine rules, he said: “We want people to be able to travel abroad as soon as it is safe to do so ... At this stage in the pandemic our current approach is the right one but we keep our measures under review.”

“On the point about double vaccinations, absolutely no decisions have been made on that.”

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