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


Britain, pressed by airlines, may ease rules for vaccinated travellers
Passengers wait at the Terminal 5 departures area at Heathrow Airport in London. (Reuters)

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LONDON – Britain is considering easing travel rules for double vaccinated people, a move that would satisfy 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.

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

More than half of British adults have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, putting it far ahead of Europe.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Britain was looking to follow the European Union’s move to allow fully vaccinated tourists to avoid COVID-19 tests and quarantine from July.

“We have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel,” a government spokesperson said on Thursday.

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 such as Malta and Spanish and Greek islands.

Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary 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 because of rising infections. But industry hopes have grown with indications Britain may now soften its stance on travel.

The safe list of “green” destinations is 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 such as 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.

(Reuters)