Double-vaccinated expats are set to be free to travel to the UK, as the Government plans to recognise foreign jabs from August 1.
British families and couples have been separated by the current restriction on quarantine-free travel to and from amber list countries because the Government only recognises those people who have been vaccinated by the NHS.
However, ministers are preparing to change the rules to allow UK nationals who have been vaccinated overseas to register the jabs with their GP, clearing the way for them to return to the UK to visit family and friends without having to self-isolate for 10 days and pay for two PCR tests.
It could benefit some 300,000 expat British citizens living in just eight of the main EU countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal, 700,000 Britons in the US and a further 150,000 in France, once it is removed from its current "amber-plus" status.
The pace of the UK’s vaccination roll-out is slowing
Ministers are also expected to open up quarantine-free travel "very soon" to foreign nationals in a reciprocal deal with 33 countries that have recognised the NHS app.
This means that potentially millions of EU and US residents could visit the UK to see relatives living here – and it would open up the multi-billion-pound inward visitor market, which has been reduced to a fraction of pre-pandemic levels.
The changes come amid growing speculation that France might be returned to amber within the next fortnight, ending the “amber-plus” requirement for all arrivals from the country, including fully jabbed Britons, to quarantine for 10 days.
It follows a sharp decline in the prevalence of the beta variant of the covid virus in France, from nine per cent of cases to 2.6 per cent, the prime reason for the restrictions being imposed last week.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, foreshadowed the move on foreign jabs in a little-noticed debate in the Commons last week.
Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi pictured earlier this year
Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley/Heathcliff O'Malley
He said: “By the end of this month, UK nationals who have been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, go through what vaccine they have had and have it registered with the NHS that they have been vaccinated.
“The reasons for the conversation with the GP is to make sure that whatever vaccine they have had is approved in the UK. Ultimately there will be co-ordination between the WHO, ourselves, the European regulator and US regulator and other regulators around the world.
“Because we are working at speed at the moment, it is UK nationals and citizens who have had UK vaccinations who will be able to travel to amber list countries other than France and come back and not quarantine.
“We want to offer the same reciprocity as the 33 countries that recognise our app and that will also happen very soon.”
The 33 countries include Anguilla, Greece, Ireland, Barbados, Bulgaria, the Cayman Islands, Croatia, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Turkey, Germany and France.
Most EU countries are part of the bloc’s travel pass scheme, which records both tests and vaccinations. The picture in the US is, however, more complicated with individual US states having different approaches to vaccination with 50 different types of certificate, some solely on paper.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, welcomed Mr Zahawi’s “incredibly encouraging” comments, but urged the Government to accelerate the process: ‘’We need action now, not just hollow words that reciprocity will hopefully be implemented soon.
“The inbound tourism industry is on its knees and, even if reciprocity is rolled out tomorrow, thousands of businesses and jobs will continue to be at risk, leaving the sector in desperate need of targeted support.’’
Case study: ‘I haven’t seen my girlfriend in over three months’
Mr Fisher, who works for a marketing consultancy, had hoped that once he was fully vaccinated the situation would change
Thomas Fisher, 26, is a British and French dual national who has lived in Paris for three years.
His girlfriend and all his close friends live in London. Before the pandemic he used to go back to the capital at least once or twice a month. But Covid restrictions have meant he has only been able to visit twice in over a year.
He told The Telegraph: “There have been periods of time where we haven’t seen each other for over three months because of the travel restrictions imposed by the UK. Before the pandemic we would see each other every other week. Obviously the French vaccine being recognised by the UK would make a big difference for us."
Mr Fisher, who works for a marketing consultancy, had hoped that once he was fully vaccinated the situation would change.
He said: “I literally check the news all the time to see if there are any plans on the UK accepting the French vaccine because that would allow me to go to the UK and see my friends. It would be a lot more flexible because I wouldn’t have to quarantine."
Mr Fisher said the fact his double vaccination is not recognised is "annoying."
He added: "It feels like you’re being discriminated against because I am British, and it is the exact same vaccine. I am not planning on going to the UK for a while because I am not going to do the quarantine."
Case study: Fees and quarantine are ‘an injustice’
Eva Baroja, a 25-year-old from Madrid, says the fact that the UK refuses to recognise vaccines administered in Spain "does not make sense".
Ms Baroja, whose boyfriend of seven years, Alberto, lives in London, says the pandemic has been "really hard" as they waited for restrictions to be lifted.
She was fully vaccinated with Pfizer at the beginning of July, but says if she wanted to travel to London she would have to pay upwards of €300 and quarantine upon arrival. She called the restrictions "an injustice."
She told The Telegraph: "If British people are fully vaccinated they can holiday in Majorca and Ibiza and have a great summer and go back home without quarantining. But I have to pay for three Covid tests and self-quarantine just to visit my boyfriend in London."
If the UK does recognise vaccines given to foreign nationals overseas, it means that Ms Baroja and her family will be able to visit Alberto in London in two weeks. If not, her parents will have to cancel their trip.