Will Britons be able to holiday in America this summer?
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After months of lockdown, the first thought on the mind of many Britons is the same: When and where can we go on holiday? While the possibility of a summer holiday is very much on the cards, the government is still providing vague messaging as to when we can travel abroad — and where.
In an announcement from the Global Travel Taskforce last week, the government said that it’s still hoping to reopen international travel from 17 May, however, it left open the possibility that the date may be pushed back. What the group did share is that when travel does return, it will take the form of a traffic light system, categorising countries based on their risk level: red, amber or green.
Arrivals from high-risk red countries will continue to need to undergo a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel — there are currently 39 countries on the red travel ban list. Arrivals will also need to take a COVID-19 test prior to departure as well as two additional COVID-19 tests on days two and eight of their quarantine.
Passengers arriving in England from amber countries will be required to take a pre-departure test, quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival and take two additional COVID-19 tests on days two and eight of their quarantine. These travellers will have the option to use England’s Test to Release scheme for a shorter quarantine period.
Finally, arrivals from the lowest-risk green countries will not be required to quarantine for 10 days. They will, however, still need to have a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test result, which can be a lateral flow test. Additionally, they’ll need to take a second COVID-19 test upon their arrival, which must be a PCR test.
The Global Travel Taskforce‘s preliminary report said that it will take into account the following factors when assessing if a country should be in the green, amber or red category: the percentage of their population that has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
While we don’t yet know which countries will be in which category, we can note what the Global Travel Taskforce is looking at and make an educated guess as to which destinations may be on the lowest-risk green list. One of those destinations is the United States of America.
The key to the U.S. being on the green list comes primarily from the country’s vaccine rates. The U.S. and U.K. have piloted two of the more successful vaccination programmes in the world. As of time of publication, the U.K. has distributed more than 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines — about 30% of the country’s population. The U.S., meanwhile has distributed at least 192 million doses of the vaccine — about 29% of the country’s population. President Biden has said that all American adults will be eligible for a first vaccine by 19 April.
Additionally, the rate of infection across both countries has been on the decline. In America, while the country was the hotspot for the pandemic for much of 2020, in recent weeks, rates of infection have been on the decline. In the past seven days, the U.S. is reporting 153 new infections per 100,000 people — 29% of its peak, according to Reuters.
Given the declining infection rates, successful vaccination rollout to-date and access to reliable scientific data, we have good reason to hope that the United States will be on England’s green list.
But not only will America have to be on the U.K.’s green list in order to make it a viable candidate for summer holidays, but the U.S. will also need to open its borders to Britons. Since March 2020, the U.S. has not allowed non-nationals coming from Europe — including the U.K. — to enter.
There were reports in late 2020 that the U.S. was considering lifting those restrictions, however, when President Biden took office in 2021, he delayed the move. That said, Biden has said that he’s considering May as a timeline for reopening America to Britons.
Executives of both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have pushed the U.K. government to establish a corridor between the two countries. Given the successful vaccine rollout, BA and Virgin executives have said that a travel corridor without mandating costly COVID-19 tests or quarantine would make sense.
Not only would a travel corridor allow travellers to seamlessly journey between the two countries, but it would also help the airlines’ bottom line. The airline industry has been hugely devastated because of the coronavirus pandemic, and a summer holiday boom could go a long way to helping restore service. Transatlantic routes between the U.K. and U.S. are vital to the financial health of the airlines. Prior to the pandemic, transatlantic flights made up about 70% of Virgin Atlantic’s route network.
On Wednesday, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said during CAPA Live that the successful vaccine rollouts across both countries should permit them to reopen to each other.
“There’s an immediate opportunity to open up the U.S.,” Doyle said.
Virgin Atlantic feels the same, specifically noting the vaccine rollouts.
“Safely reopening borders between the U.K. and the U.S. is essential for the economic recovery and future success of Global Britain, boosting trade and tourism with our most important economic partner,” said Virgin Atlantic Chief Commercial Officer Juha Jarvinen. “Over one year on since U.S. restrictions came into effect, the rapid rollout of vaccinations in both countries is bolstering future bookings, further illustrating the pent-up demand for transatlantic travel.”
For now, whether Britons will be allowed to have a summer holiday in America largely depend on two things. First, the U.S. has to reopen its borders to Europeans. Secondly, the U.K. has to resume travel, allowing travellers to go abroad on leisure trips, as well as adding the U.S. to the green list.
If both of those things happen, we could be in for a summer of trips to the Big Apple and Big Easy. Airlines will surely aim to restore service on these highly valuable routes, so there should be no shortage of supply. For now, we have to sit and wait — just a little bit longer.
Featured photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images.
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