Britain rows back on France quarantine, opens to more countries


FILE PHOTO: Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said that fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England from France will no longer have to quarantine, scrapping an extra rule imposed on its closest neighbour last month, as it also opened up to seven more countries.

The government said the change to France's status from Aug. 8 at 0300 GMT would help simplify its travel rules, and would also allow quarantine-free travel from more places, in a boost for the beleaguered travel industry.

Britain has one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world but the government has so far stopped airlines and travel companies from making a full recovery with a maze of rules and last-minute changes which have scared off holidaymakers.

It operates a "traffic light" system for international travel, with low-risk countries rated green for quarantine-free travel, medium risk countries rated amber, and red countries requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in isolation in a hotel.

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will all be added to Britain's green list for low-risk travel from Aug. 8, the government said on Wednesday, meaning that arrivals into England from those places do not have to self-isolate whether they are fully vaccinated or not.

"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public," transport minister Grant Shapps said in a statement.

The government also said the cost of hotel quarantine for an adult would increase to 2,285 pounds ($3,177.98) from 1,750 pounds to ensure taxpayers were not paying for the scheme.

LONG HAUL BOOST

Airlines like British Airways will also be pleased to see more potential for long-haul travel, as India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were moved to the amber list from the red list.

The change to the status of France, the second most popular destination for Britons before the pandemic, means it rejoins the amber list. The government said it made the change because the prevalence of the Beta variant of COVID-19 there had now fallen.

France had been on the amber list but became the only "amber plus" country in mid-July, meaning that with just two days notice even fully vaccinated people still had to quarantine on their return, prompting an outcry from the travel industry.

There had been worries that Spain, the top destination for Britons, would be added to the "amber plus" list in this latest review, but the government instead advised arrivals from there to take a PCR test pre-departure, rather than a cheaper lateral flow test, where possible.

"UK clinicians and scientists will remain in close contact with their counterparts in Spain to keep abreast of the latest data and picture of cases in Spain," the government said.

($1 = 0.7190 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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