Covid: Bookings to amber list holiday countries soar following quarantine-free announcement

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Travel firms have welcomed the changes to quarantine for amber list countries. Credit: PA

Bookings to countries on the UK's amber list have shot up following the government's announcement that fully vaccinated passengers will not need to quarantine upon their return, travel firms have said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs on Thursday that UK holidaymakers who have received two Covid vaccines from the NHS will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days on their return to England from destinations on the amber list only.

Travel firm Skyscanner said just 30 minutes after the announcement the agency saw a 53% increase in traffic from the UK compared to the same time on Wednesday.

While Thomas Cook said web traffic doubled in the moments after the announcement, and has only grown since, with searches for Greece trippling in volume.

Martin Nolan, from Skyscanner, said: “It’s clear that people are aching to be able to travel again within the guidelines, as evidenced by the immediate uptick in searches and bookings we’ve witnessed as destinations have been added to the green list.

“This is a huge moment for the UK travel industry, who have been waiting for measures that will truly help to kickstart travel in a safe, smart and sustainable way.

“This move will reunite families and allow people to finally plan travel to their favourite destinations around the world, many of which will be delighted to finally be able to welcome UK travellers for the first time in a year”.

In his announcement, Mr Shapps said under-18s will also be exempted from the quarantine requirement and that the guidance not to travel to countries on the amber list will be lifted by July 19, when the majority of restrictions are expected to be eased in England.

He said people returning from holidays from amber destinations, including France, Spain and Portugal, will still be required to take a Covid-19 test three days before returning.

They will also have to take a test on or before the second day of their return, but will be exempted from the day eight test.

Mr Shapps added the rules "may differ" in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Transport Secretary warned on Friday that travel abroad would be "different", encouraging passengers to be "patient" because of "longer queues and more disruption".

He told ITV News: "There’s certainly going to be pressures on travel, I don’t want to sugar coat it because living as we were pre the pandemic in 2019…it is different. 

"What we are talking about is people who are double vaccinated demonstrating that before they get on the aircraft.

"So it’s the check overseas, which could be the busier point."

He added: "You will need to be patient, there are likely to be longer queues and more disruption and I’m afraid that is just part of the world we are living in, as we learn to live with coronavirus and restart things like international travel."

The government is "actively working" on plans to accept vaccination certificates from travellers who receive a coronavirus jab in other countries, Mr Shapps confirmed.

Speaking on Sky News, he said he expected to be able to make an announcement "in the next couple of weeks" on extending it to people who receive a World Health Organisation-approved vaccine in other countries.

"The next thing is to be able to recognise apps from other countries or certification from other countries," he said.

"It is 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."

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The move was welcomed by airlines, with Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye calling the changes “a much needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad”.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, said: “We have always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and now millions will finally be able to reunite with family and loved ones abroad or take that long-awaited trip this summer.

“But with unnecessary testing staying in place, more needs to be done. We do not want to see a return to flying being a preserve of the rich, and expensive testing could sadly make travel out of reach for some this summer.”