Fully-vaccinated holidaymakers could avoid quarantine after July 19 'Freedom Day'

7 July 2021, 05:58 | Updated: 7 July 2021, 07:56

Heathrow will be piloting a fast-track scheme for double-jabbed travellers
Heathrow will be piloting a fast-track scheme for double-jabbed travellers. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has set his sights on tearing up travel quarantine rules from as early as July 19, paving the way for summer holidays to return without the need to isolate.

Ministers are expected to make a final decision on Thursday on exactly when to drop the requirement for double-jabbed travellers to quarantine. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is due to set out details of the Government's plans to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival.

Heathrow meanwhile is providing fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arrivals as the airline industry steps up pressure on ministers to open up quarantine-free travel to amber destinations.

On arrival at the airport, passengers will then be directed to dedicated lanes at the border to speed their passage through immigration.

Mr Johnson is said to favour easing the controls on holidaymakers from July 19 - when other Covid lockdown restrictions in England are due to be lifted.

Read more: Close contact self-isolation scrapped for the fully vaccinated - but not until August

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 and New York.

Mandatory self-isolation must be abolished to save hospitality

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.

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"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."

The call came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that 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.

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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 that millions of people could be required to quarantine in the meantime, potentially damaging output just as the economy looks to pick up pace.

READ MORE: Health Secretary: I'll keep wearing a mask, it's a responsible thing to do

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

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