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UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine (but not tests)

The UK government has announced details of how fully vaccinated travellers from countries in Europe to the UK can skip the mandatory 10-day quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland and Wales.

UK to allow fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to skip quarantine (but not tests)
(Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP)

Transport Minister Grant Shapps took to Twitter to announce the move, saying the UK government was “helping to reunite friends and families”. 

“We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK,” he said. The relaxation applies to arrivals in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland was set to consider the quarantine rules on Thursday. 

The relaxation does not affect travellers from France given that the UK recently ranked France as effectively “amber plus”.

“Separate rules will continue to apply for those arriving from France,” the government said.

The UK government had previously relaxed the quarantine rules only for arrivals from amber-level countries who had been vaccinated under the British National Health System.

That caused much anger among Britons living abroad, who complained they were effectively being barred from seeing family at home.

After much speculation in recent days the UK government has finally moved to level the playing field.

Now from 4am on August 2nd any travellers from amber level countries – which includes the majority of European nations –  arriving in Britain who have been fully inoculated with a vaccine recognised by the European Medical Agency or Swiss vaccination programme (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna or Johnson &Johnson) can now skip the mandatory 10 day quarantine.

“The UK Government has today (28 July) announced that passengers arriving from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in Europe (EU Member States, European Free Trade Association countries (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) and the USA will not have to quarantine when entering England, as part of a range of new measures designed to continue to drive forward the reopening of international travel,” said a statement from London.

However travellers (apart from children under 10) will still need to provide a negative test no more than three days prior to travel and take a PCR test on the second day after arriving in the country (apart from children aged 4 and under).

Passengers from all countries also cannot travel to the UK unless they have completed a Passenger Locator Form. 

One thing that wasn’t immediately clear from the government’s statement is whether the PCR test needed on day 2 after arrival needed to be booked in advance of travel as is currently the case.

The UK does accept lateral flow or antigen tests for pre-travel requirements.

The relaxation for the moment does not apply to travellers from France – whether returning British residents or people living in France – given that the UK ranked France as a so-called “amber plus” country.

That last-minute decision caused much anger and bafflement because the UK government said it was based on the spread of the Beta variant in France – which has in fact been falling and remains less than five percent of all cases.

In recent days there has been speculation the British government will return France to normal amber level but not announcement has yet been made.

What has the reaction been from Britons in Europe?

Many took to Twitter as usual following the UK announcement to express relief at the move but also annoyance that they would still have to take PCR tests in the UK, which can be costly.

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Member comments

  1. As an American living in France who hasn’t seen my daughter in the UK for a year, I’m just plain angry. I have even been vaccinated with the OXFORD AstraZeneca vaccine, and I still can’t travel into the UK without quarantining. Why single out France except for political retribution? As the article states, it is NOT for any health reason, at this point.

        1. For vaccinated individuals the pre travel Covid tests and day 2 tests are a nonsense. Furthermore how is a family supposed to go to the UK when children have to vaccinate. We all know that children under 18 are not being vaccinated.

  2. So what happens if we want to drive back to visit relatives in the UK from Germany, driving through France to get Eurotunnel?🤷‍♀️

    1. You currently still have to quarantine but this is likely to change next Wednesday when/if France moves from amber+ to amber

    2. For anyone who has been in France in the last 10 days… even if you are fully vaccinated.

  3. Have booked flight and puzzled what are the requirements if you are going to the UK for just one night. Ie arrival day is day zero and you are leaving on day one. Am guessing you have to book a day 2 test to get into the country but then ditch it and just return on day one? Although as it implies you can have it anytime post arrival up to day two is one obligated regardless to have a test in the limited window?

  4. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-amber-and-green-list-rules-for-entering-england

    “If you will be in England for less than 10 days
    If you’re travelling to England for less than 10 days, you will need to quarantine for the whole of your stay.

    You must still book your day 2 and day 8 travel tests, even if you will no longer be in England on the dates of the tests. You only need to take the tests if you’re still in the country on those dates.”

    My interpretation is that you’d still need to book a day 2 test even if you only plan to stay for 1 day……but you don’t have to take it (?) – stupid.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What you should know if you’re travelling to Spain in December

The rules, the least busy travel times, the strikes, the free travel deals, what you can’t check in - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling to Spain in December or at Christmas.

What you should know if you're travelling to Spain in December

December is a busy travel period with many foreigners leaving Spain to celebrate Christmas with their families back in their home countries and many others travelling to Spain for a holiday or to spend time with their loved ones here.

Airline strikes and an increase in passengers could make travelling this winter a little more challenging, but here’s everything to need to know, so you can be prepared. 

According to Spain’s airport operator Aena, the number of airline tickets sold for travel to Spain over the winter season is set to exceed the number in 2019-2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also, last winter saw the rise of the Omicron variant and some countries introduced new restrictions, so many foreign residents decided not to go back to see their families over the holidays. This means that this year could see more people wanting to return after several years of not having celebrated together with their families. 

Therefore, airports could be particularly busy this December, so make sure you leave plenty of time for getting through security and passport control.

There is still one important Covid travel rule in Spain

Although the majority of Spain’s domestic and travel Covid-19 restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022, one of the only rules that still remains in place is the obligation of wearing a face mask on public transport.

This includes aeroplanes, buses, trains, taxis and some ferries, but mask wearing isn’t compulsory at airports, ports or bus and train stations.

As things stand, the general rule is that cabin crew from all airlines have to tell passengers on planes bound to Spain that they have to wear masks.

If on the other hand the aircraft is flying out of Spain, the mask rules of the country which the plane is flying to apply, which in almost all cases means face coverings aren’t required.

Spain’s flagship airline Iberia has criticised the Spanish government’s ongoing mask requirement for passengers on planes bound to the country, stressing that it “doesn’t make any sense” and “it affects tourism”.

Although it is no longer compulsory to present a negative Covid-19 test to fly, Spanish health and airport authorities ask that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms avoid travel.

It is no longer necessary either for travellers to fill in health control forms before flying to Spain as was previously the case, and there are no bans or restrictions on non-EU or other specific countries.

Which are the least busy days for travelling to Spain in December?

According to flight search engine Skyscanner, which has analysed nine million searches for people looking to travel to Spain over the festive period, some of the quietest days to travel to Spain are from the 18th to the 23rd, with the 23rd being the least popular before Christmas.

If you’re wanting to fly to Spain after Christmas, however, you’ll find it even quieter on December 28th, as well as January 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th. You may find Spanish cities to be fairly busy however as December 6th and 8th are public holidays.

Conversely, the most popular days to travel are between December 12th and the 17th, so avoid those days if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Who is travelling to Spain this December? 

According to new data released by Spain’s Tourism Ministry, during the last month of the year, 7,066,101 people have booked seats, which implies a recovery of 97.4 percent compared to the same month of 2019. 

Forecasts for the early December holidays reveal that Italians, Germans and French are the main tourists who will be visiting Spain. During the puentes and public holidays on December 6th and 8th, Italians will make up the majority of tourists travelling to Spain (23 percent), followed by Germans (17 percent), French (16 percent), British (10 percent) and finally the Portuguese (6 percent).

Airline strikes

Several airline strikes have also been called for this winter, mainly involving low-cost airlines Vueling and Ryanair.

The Vueling strikes are due to take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and public holidays. They began on November 1st 2022 and will run right through the Christmas period to January 31st 2023.

Specifically, this means that those travelling on December 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 9th,10th and 11th may be affected by cancellations. 

Additional days that will be affected include December 24th, 31st and January 5th 2023, affecting those passengers who plan on travelling for Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings’ Day.

The workers are demanding a wage increase in line with the rise in prices due to inflation, as well as protesting over the precarious work conditions that have been experienced within the sector since even before the pandemic.  

Many passengers are currently being offered alternative flights, refunds or other compensation if their flights are cancelled. 

Ryanair baggage handlers and on-the-ground staff have also been striking and will continue to do so until January 7th, 2023.

It’s likely these airports will include Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Seville, however, it’s worth noting that Ryanair has said that it doesn’t expect this strike to cause that much disruption.

Bringing food and goods in from the UK and other non-EU countries

One of the advantages of going back to your home country for Christmas is not only to see your friends and family but also to stock up on treats and ingredients you’ve missed while living in Spain. Think mince pies, custard powder and Marmite for those going back to the UK.

But as this is the second Christmas since Brexit came into force, many may still not be totally aware of what they’re now allowed to bring to Spain from non-EU countries.

The EU’s strict rules mean that all imports of animal-derived products are not allowed. This means no Christmas puddings with suet, no British bacon and blocks and Wensleydale or Cheddar cheese to bring back with you.

If you want to know exactly what you can and can’t bring in this Christmas, read our detailed guide here

Bringing food from Spain into the UK, is a little easier as you’re still allowed to bring in EU products, so packets of jamón and Manchego cheese are ok to take.

Travel within Spain

Those who are planning on travelling within Spain this Christmas, either to visit friends and family or simply for the fun of travel should know that there are currently lots of travel discounts, particularly on trains.

Multi-journey tickets are currently free on Cercanías, Rodalies and Media Distancia trains and are worth paying the €10 or €20 deposit for if you’re going to be making the same journey several times during your trip.

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For example, if you’re planning on spending the holiday in the small Catalan town of Sitges, but know that you’ll be making several trips to Barcelona during that time for sightseeing, shopping or eating out, then it could be worth it.

Unfortunately, the free tickets are not available on long-distance trains, but you can still get a bargain on these this winter as Spain’s new low-cost train operator Iryo recently launched.

This means that you can get tickets from Madrid to Barcelona as well as Valencia and Málaga for an average of €18 each. 

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