Covid: Heathrow Airport to fast track arrivals for fully-vaccinated passengers

Fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arrivals to Heathrow are being piloted this week. Credit: PA

Fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arrivals into Britain's Heathrow airport are to be implemented as the airline industry steps up pressure on ministers to open up coronavirus quarantine-free travel to amber destinations.

Under a pilot programme which will be launched this week, passengers from selected destinations will be able to upload their Covid vaccination certificate before boarding.

Once they arrive at the airport, they will then be directed to dedicated lanes at the border to speed up their passage through immigration.



The move comes ahead of an expected announcement on Thursday when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will set out details of the government’s plans to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival.

Boris Johnson is said to favour easing the controls from July 19 – when other Covid lockdown restrictions in England are due to be lifted – according to The Times.

Green list travel: What you need to know

What are the latest countries added to the UK's green list?

Bulgaria, Hong Kong, Croatia and Taiwan are the latest countries to be added, as of 4am on 19 June.

What does it mean when a country is on the green list?

People who are travelling to countries on the green list will still need to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before they return to the UK and a single PCR test on or before day two of their arrival into the UK - but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

Children aged four and under are exempt from the test.

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Do I need to quarantine or take a test on arrival to Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta or Madeira?

Bulgaria

Bulgaria has a similar green, amber and red travel system to that of the UK.

The UK is currently amber on Bulgaria's list.

This means if you are entering Bulgaria from the UK you must present one of three documents.

First, a vaccination certificate indicating an approved vaccine schedule has been completed at least 14 days before arrival.

Second, a document showing a positive result from a PCR or rapid antigen test for people who have recovered from Covid-19.

Third, a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before entry into Bulgaria or a rapid antigen test performed up to 48 hours before entry.Additionally, at least 5% of all arrivals from amber countries will be subject to a rapid antigen test at random.

Croatia

To avoid quarantine in Croatia you must present a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test, or proof of vaccination, or a doctor’s certificate of recovery following a positive test result between 11 and 180 days prior.

To enter via proof of vaccination you must have had either a two-dose vaccine course from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Gamaleya or Sinopharm or a certificate of receipt of a one-dose vaccine such as the Johnson & Johnson jab.

Croatia will accept the NHS Covid pass both as a letter or via the app.Children under 12 are exempt from the requirements.

If you have not got any of the accepted ways of gaining entry, a test can be taken upon arrival in Croatia but you will have to self-isolate until you have the result.

Malta

No - the only reason you would need to quarantine in Malta is if you do not have proof of a negative Covid test result.

The UK is on Malta's amber list, which means passengers (everyone aged 5 and above) arriving in the country will need to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate before boarding flights to Malta. You will also need to show the physical copy of a negative Covid test when you land in Malta. The swab test will need to be carried out up to 72 hours (maximum) prior to arrival in Malta. If a negative PCR test is not presented, a swab test on arrival or a 14-day quarantine period is mandatory on arrival. All passengers must complete a Public Health Travel Declaration Form and Passenger Locator Form. You must show both forms to airline officials when leaving the UK and health officials when you arrive in Malta.Everyone arriving (and departing) from Malta has their temperature checked. If you have a high temperature, you will need to take a swab test. Madeira

To enter Madeira, you must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test or have had both doses of the Covid vaccine at least 15 days prior to travel.

Passengers must take a PCR test 72 hours before travel and upload the test result - children aged 12 and under are exempt. If you have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, you will be exempt from showing a PCR test on entry and Madeira will accept your NHS letter to demonstrate your vaccination status.

All passengers (except for children aged 12 and under) will need to complete and submit a traveller questionnaire.

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What other countries are already on the green list?

The addition of Malta, Balearic Islands and Madeira will be a welcome addition for travellers returning to the UK, as the majority of countries previously on the green list are closed to international tourists, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Here are the green list countries:

  • Australia

  • Brunei

  • Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Barbados, Dominicana, Granada, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands)

  • Falkland Islands

  • Faroe Islands

  • Gibraltar

  • Iceland

  • Israel and Jerusalem

  • Malta

  • Madeira

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

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Heathrow together with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic – the two airlines involved in the trial programme – said it was essential that there was no delay in implementing the changes.

The scheme will initially involve fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay, Jamaica, and New York.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said restrictions will be eased in a ‘proportionate’ manner Credit: House of Commons/PA

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said: “This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19”.

His comments were echoed by Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss who said: “To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll out, the UK government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from amber countries, and no later than the domestic reopening on July 19.

“The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake”.

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle, John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport and Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

The call came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced people in England who have been double jabbed – as well as the under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.

However, there was consternation among some Tory MPs that the change will not come into force until August 16, almost a month after other controls are due to have ended.

With cases continuing to soar, there were fears millions of people could be required to quarantine in the meantime, potentially damaging output just as the economy looks to pick up pace.

Mr Javid has acknowledged the numbers of new infections could rise to 100,000-a-day as restrictions come to an end.


Lockdown rules in England: What's changing from July 19

What has happened to social distancing and the rule of six?

The 'one metre plus' rule has been scrapped entirely, as of July 19 in England. However, some guidance to maintain social distancing in certain situations will remain in place of the legal restrictions.

Social distancing guidance will continue if someone is Covid positive and self-isolating, or in airports, or other ports of entry, to avoid travellers arriving from amber or red-list countries mixing with those from green list areas.

Limits on social contact in England have disappeared, meaning the end of the rule of six indoors and the limit of 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

Do I still need to wear a face mask?

There is now no legal requirements to wear face coverings - but guidance still encourages using masks in some settings, including hospitals, healthcare settings and in crowded enclosed public spaces.

Has the working from home guidance changed?

The guidance on working from home has gone. It's ultimately down to employers to decide whether to keep staff at home or in the office, but the government say employers are able to plan the return of staff to the workplace.

What about weddings and funerals?

The current limits on numbers of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events has ended.

What's happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The changes to Covid rules announced by Boris Johnson, only impact England and will not change regulations in Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government “would like to move together” with other parts of the UK in lifting coronavirus restrictions but will only do so if it is “right for Wales”, health minister Eluned Morgan said on Monday 5 July.

As of July 19, restrictions in Scotland have eased, with all areas of the country moving to level 0. The government is aiming to lift all major restrictions in Scotland by August 9.

In Northern Ireland, some significant restrictions have already been eased including allowing the resumption of live music and the lifting of caps on organised outdoor gatherings.

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Ministers are relying on the vaccination programme to protect people from becoming seriously ill with the virus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

However former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned the hospitality sector – already ravaged by the economic fallout from the pandemic – could be particularly hard hit by the delay in easing the self-isolation rules.

“Why would you even go to a pub (after step four of the lifting of lockdown)? This makes it worse,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“I wouldn’t go to a pub that wasn’t still having six around a table and social distancing, otherwise you run the risk of everyone in the pub being pinged and locked down”.

Mr Javid said the aim was to “manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic” while maintaining as much freedom as possible.


Stay up to date with the changing travel situation in the UK and abroad with news, information and advice at itv.com/holidaynews.


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