Details of a plan to allow vaccinated people from abroad into the UK without having to quarantine could be revealed in the “next couple of weeks”, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps told Sky News that ministers are “actively working” on proposals to allow those who received their jabs outside of the UK to be exempt from the quarantine rules when travelling from amber list countries.
He added the measure will be brought in “as soon as we can” – but suggested those residing within the EU could be allowed in sooner than those in the US, as the bloc rolls out a unified digital vaccine passport scheme.
It comes a day after Mr Shapps confirmed that fully vaccinated adults and all children will no longer have to quarantine on their return from amber list countries from 19 July.
At present, individuals must self-isolate for 10 days after they return to England from countries such as Spain, France and Italy.
After the self-isolation policy change, individuals will still have to pay to take a PCR test on their second day back.
Responding to a question on expats, the transport secretary said allowing people vaccinated in other countries to come to the UK without having to quarantine would be “phase two” of the government’s COVID international travel policy and is something ministers are “very actively working on” at the moment.
“The next thing is to be able to recognise apps from other countries or certification from other countries – easier done from some places like the EU where they have a digital app coming along than it is in the United States where I think they have 50 different systems, one for each state, largely paper based,” he told Sky News.
“So there are some complexities to work through there, but this is phase one, and we hope to follow it up quickly with double vaccinated people from other countries coming here.”
Mr Shapps added: “Obviously we will look at whether they are World Health Organisation certified and the like and I would think, in terms of timescale, in the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to come forward and say more about other locations in the world.”
The transport secretary noted that one complexity associated with allowing expats into the UK without having to quarantine is that fewer people are double vaccinated in many other countries.
On Thursday, Mr Shapps also confirmed that the government’s guidance that people should not travel to amber list countries will be lifted on the same 19 July date, meaning hopeful holidaymakers can travel for leisure purposes and to see family members.
But after Downing Street confirmed that the exemption to quarantine for holidaymakers will only apply to those who have been vaccinated by the NHS, many expats were concerned that they would be unable to be reunited with loved ones in the UK this summer.
Allowing those vaccinated in countries other than the UK to also be exempt from isolation after travelling from amber list countries would mean double-jabbed expats living in popular destinations such as Spain could return to see friends and relatives much more easily.
The change for fully-vaccinated adults and all children in the UK takes place in less than two weeks and will open up Europe’s top holiday destinations to many hopeful holidaymakers.
Hours after the announcement, easyJet said flight bookings to amber list countries were up 400% on last week as the airline put on more than 145,000 extra seats.
The transport secretary clarified that being fully-vaccinated means “14 days have passed since your final dose of the vaccine”.
And he warned that amber list countries could still turn red – and said there would be no changes made for people arriving from those places.
Arrivals from red list countries are required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
Adults who have not had both jabs will still have to quarantine when they return from an amber list country, or face a fine of up to £10,000.