The transport secretary Grant Shapps has defended the timing of the government’s decision to ease quarantine restrictions for vaccinated travellers from the EU and US.
A number of critics and members of the travel industry said the decision was long overdue, with Etoa chief executive Tom Jenkins saying the government had “left it very late to stop scoring own goals”.
However, Shapps insisted the decision had been delayed to allow other countries to “catch up” with the UK on vaccination rates.
He also said the potential for easing restrictions for more countries would continue to be assessed during August, with the next review of the traffic light list due next week.
Defending the timing of the decision, Shapps told the BBC: “We are very conscious about ensuring that we don’t import variants of concern and so I think the British public are pleased if we err on the side of caution and that’s what we’ve tried to do throughout.”
He added: “At the same time, we recognise [the impact of] double vaccinations, where they are approved by the European Medicines Agency or by the federal agency in the States, and so now is a good time to open up and we look forward to that being reciprocated in time and particularly for the US market.”
Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice-president of public affairs and policy at the US Travel Association, said: “British government leaders have made a wise decision in reopening England to vaccinated travellers from the United States. It’s time for US leaders to do the same and set a timeline to reopen our national borders—and we encourage them to start with vaccinated travellers from the UK, EU and Canada.
“The reality is there’s no difference between a vaccinated American and those vaccinated in the UK, the EU and Canada.”
She added: “International travel is an export industry, and the balance of travel trade historically has favoured the United States. Closed borders have not eliminated the spread of the delta variant, while continued border closures have further delayed the return of American jobs and a greater economic recovery.
“To US government leaders we say: Let’s establish a plan—now—as the British and Canadian and other governments have done, to begin reopening international travel.”