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UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine (but not tests)

The UK government has announced details of how fully vaccinated travellers from countries in Europe to the UK can skip the mandatory 10-day quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland and Wales.

UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine (but not tests)
(Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)

Transport Minister Grant Shapps took to Twitter to announce the move, saying the UK government was “helping to reunite friends and families”. 

“We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK,” he said. The relaxation applies to arrivals in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland was set to consider the quarantine rules on Thursday. 

The relaxation does not affect travellers from France given that the UK recently ranked France as effectively “amber plus”.

“Separate rules will continue to apply for those arriving from France,” the government said.

The UK government had previously relaxed the quarantine rules only for arrivals from amber-level countries who had been vaccinated under the British National Health System.

That caused much anger among Britons living abroad, who complained they were effectively being barred from seeing family at home.

After much speculation in recent days the UK government has finally moved to level the playing field.

Now from 4am on August 2nd any travellers from amber level countries – which includes the majority of European nations –  arriving in Britain who have been fully inoculated with a vaccine recognised by the European Medical Agency or Swiss vaccination programme (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna or Johnson &Johnson) can now skip the mandatory 10 day quarantine.

“The UK Government has today (28 July) announced that passengers arriving from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in Europe (EU Member States, European Free Trade Association countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) and the USA will not have to quarantine when entering England, as part of a range of new measures designed to continue to drive forward the reopening of international travel,” said a statement from London.

However travellers (apart from children under 10) will still need to provide a negative test no more than three days prior to travel and take a PCR test on the second day after arriving in the country (apart from children aged 4 and under).

Passengers from all countries also cannot travel to the UK unless they have completed a Passenger Locator Form. 

One thing that wasn’t immediately clear from the government’s statement is whether the PCR test needed on day 2 after arrival needed to be booked in advance of travel as is currently the case.

The UK does accept lateral flow or antigen tests for pre-travel requirements.

The relaxation for the moment does not apply to travellers from France – whether returning British residents or people living in France – given that the UK ranked France as a so-called “amber plus” country.

That last-minute decision caused much anger and bafflement because the UK government said it was based on the spread of the Beta variant in France – which has in fact been falling and remains less than five percent of all cases.

In recent days there has been speculation the British government will return France to normal amber level but not announcement has yet been made.

What has the reaction been from Britons in Europe?

Many took to Twitter as usual following the UK announcement to express relief at the move but also annoyance that they would still have to take PCR tests in the UK, which can be costly.

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Member comments

  1. As an American living in France who hasn’t seen my daughter in the UK for a year, I’m just plain angry. I have even been vaccinated with the OXFORD AstraZeneca vaccine, and I still can’t travel into the UK without quarantining. Why single out France except for political retribution? As the article states, it is NOT for any health reason, at this point.

        1. For vaccinated individuals the pre travel Covid tests and day 2 tests are a nonsense. Furthermore how is a family supposed to go to the UK when children have to vaccinate. We all know that children under 18 are not being vaccinated.

  2. So what happens if we want to drive back to visit relatives in the UK from Germany, driving through France to get Eurotunnel?🤷‍♀️

    1. You currently still have to quarantine but this is likely to change next Wednesday when/if France moves from amber+ to amber

    2. For anyone who has been in France in the last 10 days… even if you are fully vaccinated.

  3. Have booked flight and puzzled what are the requirements if you are going to the UK for just one night. Ie arrival day is day zero and you are leaving on day one. Am guessing you have to book a day 2 test to get into the country but then ditch it and just return on day one? Although as it implies you can have it anytime post arrival up to day two is one obligated regardless to have a test in the limited window?

  4. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england

    “If you will be in England for less than 10 days
    If you’re travelling to England for less than 10 days, you will need to quarantine for the whole of your stay.

    You must still book your day 2 and day 8 travel tests, even if you will no longer be in England on the dates of the tests. You only need to take the tests if you’re still in the country on those dates.”

    My interpretation is that you’d still need to book a day 2 test even if you only plan to stay for 1 day……but you don’t have to take it (?) – stupid.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Reader question: Can I get a refund after cancelling my Austria trip due to Covid?

Summer vacations and rising Covid-19 infection numbers are a dangerous combination for travellers. Here is what you need to know about your rights if you get sick and need to cancel your holidays to or from Austria.

Reader question: Can I get a refund after cancelling my Austria trip due to Covid?

You are all set for your long-awaited vacations, but just before you leave, the coronavirus test comes back positive. What to do and what are your rights? Is it possible to get a refund on your trip to or from Austria?

Will the airline let you move your flight to a different date, or will the hotel reschedule your reservation?

As summer vacations arrive, with most European countries having no or almost no coronavirus restrictions, travelling is back – and with a vengeance, it appears. Austrian Airlines boss Annette Mann said that “people [now] have an insane desire to travel”.

READ ALSO: Will Austria see travel chaos in airports this summer?

At the same time, Austria has been facing rising Covid-19 infection numbers for weeks, and there is a fear of an intense summer wave.

On Thursday, June 30th, the country reported 12,506 new cases in 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.

What to do if you have symptoms?

If you have any symptoms of Covid-19, including mild flu-like symptoms like coughing or sneezing, you should get tested. In Austria, there are many alternatives for those looking for the test, from free PCR at home to antigen tests.

If you test positive with an antigen test, you should confirm the result with a PCR test. Once you are a suspected case, you should quarantine until your result is confirmed. If the PCR test is positive, you need to self-isolate for at least five days.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Austria

Self-isolation after a positive test is mandatory in Austria and most countries worldwide. That means that, by regulation, you are not allowed to leave your home for non-medical purposes during those days – or even longer,, depending on the course of the disease.

If you have a trip scheduled during your isolation period, that could be a problem.

What happens to my flight tickets?

Airline companies are not required to refund you or allow you to make changes to your flight for free – unless the ticket you purchased entitled you to these rights.

Most companies sell tickets for the same journey with different fares. Not only prices can change depending on the classic “economic, business, first class” divisions, but they can also increase dramatically depending on the type of ticket.

For example, an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna to Rome in economy starts at €59.92. There are then three options: economy light, economy classic, and economy flex.

An empty Austrian Airlines check-in counter. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP

READ ALSO: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid

The first, with the lowest tariff, does not entitle you to a refund and will charge you €70 for rebooking plus a possible tariff difference.

A “economy classic” ticket costs €89.92, and will allow you to rebook without a charge (you only need to pay the difference in prices). It will not give you a refund.

Finally, the “economy flex” costs €129.92, allows for a refund (minus a €70 fee), and lets you rebook without a charge (you only have to cover the price changes).

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

The tickets have other differences, including allowing you to carry more luggage or reserve your seat, for example. Depending on which one you purchased, you may or may not be entitled to a refund.

What about my hotel reservations?

The same is valid for hotel reservations. Most of them, especially if you have used an online booking platform, will have different fees and travellers have different rights. It is essential to understand each tariff and what they entitle you to.

For example, a twin room in a hotel in downtown Vienna could cost you €92, but it is non-refundable and you need to pay in advance.

READ ALSO: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

The same twin room can be found for €108, but with free cancellation – read the fine lines and you will see that even the free cancellation is only valid until three days before the booking date in some cases.

Just like airlines, hotels are not mandated to refund you if you can’t make it to your reservation because you or a travel companion got Covid-19. Unless you paid for the more flexible (and more expensive) rate.

Photo by Jorgen Hendriksen on Unsplash

What can I do, then?

It is worth mentioning that there are a few things you could try. For example, if you purchased travel insurance, or if your debit or credit card has it automatically, you might be able to get a refund. So, check those insurance documents.

Additionally, it may be possible to negotiate directly with a hotel. While airlines are major corporations and it might seem next to impossible to find a human being able to perhaps negotiate, this is not the case with a hotel.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

It may be that you are able to swap your reservation dates, depending on occupancy and how much wiggle room the hotel manager has. It won’t solve all your problems, but if it’s a trip to a nearby place, sometimes accommodation is more expensive than flights.

You also need to always be careful and double check the policies of tickets and hotel (or private accommodations) you buy and reserve. If you have booked through a travel agent or online platform, it is also worth looking if they have different cancellation or rescheduling policies.

Finally, if you have not made it to your hotel reservation because of a flight problem, if your flight was cancelled or delayed, for example, you have rights under the EU law.

*Prices for this story were checked on June 30th.

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