American and European Union travelers who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus will no longer need to spend 10 days in quarantine after they arrive in England from Aug. 2.
Under plans backed by British ministers on Wednesday, international leisure cruises will also resume after being put on hold for more than a year.
The reforms to travel rules will allow visitors from the U.S. and most EU countries to enter the U.K. on the same basis as Britons who have received both COVID-19 shots. U.K. residents are no longer required to self-isolate when returning from most medium-risk countries.
The rule change takes effect at 4 a.m. Monday and initially applies to England, though other nations in the U.K. have generally followed suit on international travel.
“Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade, this is progress we can all enjoy,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. He added that the move will “start to rebuild key transatlantic routes.”
The plans will deliver a significant boost to Britain’s aviation and travel sector, which has lagged the recovery in continental Europe.
This summer, American tourists on European holidays have largely bypassed the U.K. to avoid quarantines. And while vaccinated Britons can travel with less hassle to Spain or Portugal, EU residents haven’t been able to easily get to tourist attractions like the Tower of London.
While the U.K. decision will ease the barriers to travel from the U.S., the Biden administration isn’t likely to reciprocate any time soon. Last week, the U.S. advised Americans to avoid traveling to the U.K. because of a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“We want people to be able to come from the U.S. freely in a way that they normally do. We’re talking to them the whole time,” Johnson said in an interview with LBC radio Wednesday. “At the moment we’re dealing with a delta wave, the U.S. is dealing with a delta wave, but be assured that we are on it the whole time.”
As Johnson’s government has eased restrictions in recent weeks, interest in foreign holidays has surged, especially for Britons aiming to visit neighboring European destinations.
Low-cost carriers such as Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc have added capacity, though most of the action is still in the EU. The U.K.’s easing means more relief is on its way.
“This is absolutely positive,” Wizz Chief Executive Officer Jozsef Varadi said in an interview, referring to EU-U.K. travel. “It’s a move that is long overdue and needed to happen. It makes sense for both parties.”
Shares of EasyJet, most dependent on the U.K. among the three discounters, advanced as much as 5.3 percent on Wednesday. Ryanair added 2.6 percent and Wizz, which has been expanding into the U.K. from its Hungarian base, gained up to 6.9 percent after predicting a return to pre-pandemic capacity levels by August in its quarterly results report.
British Airways owner IAG SA, which would benefit from more traffic between the U.K. and the U.S., rose as much as 4 percent.
Shai Weiss, CEO of long-distance specialist Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., urged the U.K. to put the U.S. on its green list of safe-travel countries, and asked Biden to repeal the ban on visitors from the U.K. — a barrier that will limit the impact of the reopening on transatlantic travel.
Under rules that went into effect this month, Britons with both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine no longer have to quarantine for 10 days after returning to the U.K. from more than 100 countries on the so-called “amber list” of medium-risk locations.
Instead they must take Covid tests before setting off on their journeys to the U.K. and again after arriving.
Passengers need to show proof of COVID-19 status via so-called vaccine passports. Separate rules will continue to apply to passengers arriving from France, after Johnson’s government tightened rules due to the risk of variant there.
“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,” said British Airways CEO Sean Doyle.
Tim Ross, Bloomberg News