Fully vaccinated holidaymakers will have to pay for Covid tests on their return from amber list countries, Grant Shapps is set to announce on Thursday.
The Transport Secretary is expected to say quarantine for double-jabbed Britons from amber countries will end from as early as July 19 but he will warn holidaymakers that they will be required to take a PCR test on day two of their return.
Their children will be exempted from quarantine even though they are not vaccinated but parents will still have to pay for them to have tests, also on day two of their return. It could add up to £400 to a holiday for a family of four with additional pre-departure tests.
“Day two testing will remain for arrivals from amber countries, regardless of vaccinated status, as this provides genomic sequencing capability to identify the risk of importing variants,” Mr Shapps said.
PCR tests for holidaymakers returning from the quarantine-free green list countries will also remain in place for the same reason until at least July 31, when the traffic light travel system will be reviewed for a second time.
Travel countries on the red, green and amber list
The plans will be considered by ministers in the Cabinet’s Covid-O committee on Thursday morning, when a final decision is taken on whether to go for July 19 before Mr Shapps briefs MPs.
It will mean that double-jabbed Britons will be able to travel to more than 140 amber list countries without having to quarantine on their return.
They include most of the main European holiday destinations, such as Spain, Greece, France, Portugal and Italy, although some have restrictions of either quarantine – such as five days for Italy – or pre-arrival tests.
Asked about the holiday plans on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: “I think double vaccination is a potential and great liberator. In principle and in practice, it is going to be great.”
Tour operators and airlines are prepared for a surge in demand. TUI, Britain’s biggest tour operator, is anticipating a potential 10-fold increase in holidays, from its current seven per cent of pre-pandemic levels to 70 per cent. In a typical pre-Covid holiday season, it had 130 flights a day.
Border Force pressed for more time to prepare for the increase in travel but were overruled by ministers, who are expected to warn that holidaymakers will face queues at airports and ports on their return.
The ISU union, which represents Border Force officers, said peak-time queues were one to two hours even now with 14 per cent of pre-pandemic arrivals, and forecast three to four hours at the busiest points in the first few weeks of the double vaccination scheme.
The 43 hotel quarantine ‘red list’ countries
“The biggest bar is the insistence on 100 per cent checks on all arrivals. It will be chaotic for a couple of weeks. The best thing is for the Government to be honest and say to holidaymakers that they will face long delays but at least you can travel,” said a source.
The Prime Minister has previously warned that it will be a “difficult year for travel.” “There will be hassle, there will be delays,” he said.
It follows the launch of a dedicated fast-track channel at Heathrow for vaccinated passengers and their children on BA and Virgin flights in a trial of digital technology to show travellers can get through border controls quickly and easily.
Mr Shapps is expected to confirm the double vaccination scheme will be phased in, starting with Britons whose vaccination status will be integrated into the passenger locator form via the NHS app or paper certificates.
Foreign travellers are expected to be excluded initially because of the difficulty of verifying their vaccination status. Unjabbed Britons largely in their late teens, 20s and 30s will also still have to quarantine on their return from amber countries.
The government advice against travel to amber countries will be dropped but arrivals from red list countries will still be required to quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel at a cost of up to £1,750, and take PCR tests on days two and eight.
Quarantine-free travel has so far only been allowed to 27 destinations of which only Malta, the Balearic Islands of Ibiza, Mallorca and Minorca, Madeira, Gibraltar and Iceland have been viable holiday choices.
Next week the Government will announce its expanded green list, which aviation experts say should include 20 more countries including France, Italy and Norway which fulfil the Government’s criteria of low Covid rates and variants and high vaccination levels.