England is expected to open its borders to allow US and EU travellers who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter without the need to quarantine, according to reports.
The plans, which would be a major boost to the aviation and tourism sectors, are expected to be discussed at a meeting of senior ministers on the Covid-O committee on Wednesday morning.
Changes are expected as soon as next week, while countries outside the EU and US could be allowed inbound quarantine-free travel at a later date, The Times reported.
The Guardian stated that conversations are also expected between Whitehall officials and the devolved administrations on whether the change to the rules would apply to England only, or all four nations of the UK.
Mike Tildesley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, told Times Radio there is “a risk attached” to easing self-isolation requirements.
But he added: “If people are double vaccinated, if people are coming from countries that have similar levels of infection to ours, and no real risk of variants of concern that might be introduced into the country, then it’s probably a practical decision that has to be made to try to support the tourist industry.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, claimed allowing fully vaccinated US and EU citizens to enter the UK without going into quarantine “would finally be the dawn of a consistent global policy”.
He said he is one of several people in the sector who have made it “very clear” to Cabinet and junior ministers that there will be “thousands of job losses” in the UK across aviation, hotels and visitor attractions if travel is not “opened widely” in August.
He added: “Foreign visitors are essential to UK plc.”
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the Transport Select Committee, said it has “only taken (Boris) Johnson six weeks since Europe and America resumed travel to realise the UK has been left behind”.
He went on to urge the Prime Minister to “address rip-off tests”, with some holidaymakers required to pay hundreds of pounds for testing packages
Aviation firms claimed a trial has demonstrated the UK can safely exempt fully vaccinated US and EU visitors from self-isolation.
Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said their 10-day pilot scheme proved the vaccination status of travellers can be efficiently and accurately checked away from the border.
Around 250 fully vaccinated passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens earlier this month presented their credentials using paper or digital formats before boarding the plane.
Some 99% of their documents were verified as authentic, with just two passengers’ credentials rejected.
In one case there was a discrepancy between the name on the vaccine card and the name on the passport, while another involved someone who had been fully vaccinated less than 14 days before travel.
The Department for Transport has committed to a formal review of its rules for arriving travellers before Sunday.
Since July 19, people arriving in the UK from amber list locations, such as the US, have had to have received both doses of a vaccine in the UK to avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.
The rules exclude those who have been inoculated elsewhere in the world.
BA chief executive Sean Doyle said the trial provides “the evidence the Government needs” to allow fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries to enter the UK without self-isolating.
He went on: “The UK needs to safely reopen its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.”