Heathrow is to provide 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.
Under a pilot programme to be launched this week, passengers from selected destinations will be able to upload their coronavirus vaccination certificate before boarding.
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At a glance: 5 key points
- On arrival at the airport, these passengers will be directed to dedicated lanes at the border to speed up their passage through immigration
- The scheme will, at first, be available to fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay, Jamaica and New York
- The move comes ahead of the expected announcement from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday, when he is anticipated to lay out the details of the Government’s plan to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self isolate on arrival
- Heathrow, along with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, the two airlines involved in the trial programme, said that it is essential that there is no delay in implementing the changes
- The news comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that people in England who have received both doses of a vaccine will no longer be required to self isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus
What’s been said
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.
“The UK is already falling behind the 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.”
Meanwhile, Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told The Sun: “It would be pointless introducing it in mid-August as the summer travel season will have been lost almost entirely — along with tens of thousands of jobs.”
Pending a final decision on Monday 12 July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed plans for the lifting of all remaining lockdown restrictions in England on 19 July.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Monday (5 July), Johnson confirmed that all legal coronavirus restrictions including mask-wearing, social distancing and nightclub closures will end at Step 4 of the Government’s plan to ease England’s lockdown.
In the press conference, Johnson said that “the pandemic is far from over and it will certainly not be over by 19th [July]” and added that “there could be 50,000 cases detected per day by the 19th”.
The latest data has shown that there had been a further 27,334 cases of Covid-19 as of 9am on Monday, while a further nine people had died within 28 days of testing positive.
Additional reporting by PA.
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