Transport secretary Grant Shapps has declined to put a timetable on plans to introduce quarantine-free travel from amber countries for people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Last week, the government revealed plans to change policy later this summer to allow travellers who have received both doses of a vaccine to be exempted from the current 10-day quarantine on return from amber countries.
But Shapps would not give a timetable for the implementation of this change when pressed by MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday (29 June), citing “complexities” such as whether children will be vaccinated or not. An update on the policy is expected in July.
“This is a complicated policy that requires time to work through,” said Shapps. “First, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has yet to opine on whether children should be part of a vaccination programme.
“They are not at present, and we must resolve how children would therefore be treated under a programme that enabled people to travel without vaccinations.”
Shapps added there were questions about how the system would treat younger people yet to receive two doses of a vaccine, as well as those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
“Although we will have everybody on a single vaccination, promised by 19 July, there will still be significant numbers who would not be able to travel under that system, so there are a lot of fairness issues to resolve too,” he said.
Shapps also identified “the question of how to recognise vaccine status at ports and airports” as another issue to be ironed out, particularly for visitors from other countries. He said this should be easier for those vaccinated in the UK as their status can be shown within the NHS app.
“We will announce to the house when we are ready to make these decisions in order to bring this system into place. It will most likely be phased in for UK residents first,” he added.
Shapps also reiterated his “intention and desire” to reopen international travel as soon as possible.
“I share the absolute desire to return international travel as soon as we practically can to something as close as possible to normality, while recognising it is important we ensure that variants of concern are properly monitored and not brought into this country,” he said.