Industry sources have warned that limited progress in relaxing UK travel restrictions could be undermined by increasing controls in destinations.
Malta confirmed that arrivals not fully-vaccinated, including children aged 12 and over, are required to quarantine for 14 days. Portugal introduced quarantine for unvaccinated UK arrivals. Greece confirmed arrivals from the UK are “under the microscope”, Spain introduced a requirement for UK visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test and Hong Kong banned flights from the UK.
A leading industry source warned: “The situation is deteriorating. A number of countries won’t provide us with entry now. We need alignment at both ends, but there is a failure to align. Unless we can resolve this it will take months to get moving at scale.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel urged EU leaders to impose quarantine on all UK arrivals because of the delta variant of Covid-19 as EU officials met on Monday to co-ordinate Europe’s restart as an EU Digital Covid Certificate comes into use from today (Wednesday). But a decision remains unclear, suggesting the lack of co-ordination will continue.
However, new UK health secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly poised to pave the way for reopening travel to EU countries with a new NHS app that is ready to bypass Merkel’s quarantine demands.
The app has been updated to serve as a Covid passport, enabling British travellers to prove they are fully vaccinated, show a negative pre-departure test or show that they have had the virus in the past 180 days.
It is ready to be integrated into the EU’s identical green pass system which will allow people to travel freely throughout the bloc by revealing their vaccination or test status at borders.
“We are technically ready to be integrated into the EU database that will recognise your digital NHS signature and allow you to demonstrate your Covid status,” a senior industry source told the Telegraph.
“There are some glitches with private test providers struggling to register their tests quickly enough but, once those are resolved, all that is required is for the EU to allow non-EU countries to be integrated.”
A European Commission spokesman said talks on the UK’s participation in the green pass system were “progressing well”, adding: “The talks are ongoing at the technical level and going in the right direction. This is because the technical system architecture of the EU and the UK are aligned.”
Iata and Airlines for Europe noted “at least ten different approaches” to verifying the certificates and warned of “unnecessary queues” with average check-in times at airports of 12 minutes per passenger.
One source insisted: “The lack of alignment across EU member states is remarkable. They potentially have a bigger problem than us.”
Hopes of UK-US agreement on restarting transatlantic travel also faded as officials forecast talks would extend into August. A UK official told the Financial Times: “This is not going to happen soon. It’s looking like September.” UK and EU visitors have been barred from the US since March 2020.
US recognition of the AstraZeneca vaccine could also be months’ away, meaning the US would not recognise millions of Britons as vaccinated.
A source explained: “The US highlights the problem with vaccination recognition in other markets [such as the UAE] which have used a mix of vaccines which are unrecognised. How do you recognise the vaccinations?”
Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston told Travel Weekly: “We want to signal where it’s easier and safer for people to travel, but we’re not in charge of all the levers. We can say a certain country is fine, but that country may not allow travel.”