Editorial: International markets inch open; it’s high time

The UK is finally removing quarantine requirements on fully vaccinated residents traveling from countries on its 'amber list.'

Wesley Charnock is Editor-in-Chief of Routes.

The UK government has announced that fully vaccinated residents will no longer need to quarantine on arrival in England from countries on its “amber list."

Almost 34 million people in the UK have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for about 63% of the adult population. As a result, although cases are rising in the UK, death rates are low.

Other European nations have made similar steps in recent days, notably Germany and Norway which announced plans to ease some international restrictions.

The data show that advanced vaccination programs are effective against the virus and it is encouraging to see governments having the faith to back the science with action.

With the UK’s amber list comprising 147 countries, compared to just 29 on the green list (many of which are at risk of moving to amber), this is a major step towards re-opening international markets. The news has been met with widespread relief and praise from the travel industry.

In making the announcement, UK Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said that allowing quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people “means they can be reunited with loved ones overseas and we can return to normality as quickly as possible.”

It will also hopefully provide UK businesses the freedom to make international travel plans with confidence, while providing UK residents the opportunity to take overseas vacations or visit friends and family abroad. More needs to be done; the next important step is to extend the quarantine exemption to non-UK residents in amber and green countries who have also been fully vaccinated. That’s the only way that the flow of inbound tourism and business can be restored.

Nevertheless, the most compelling statement from Javid on the current changes was what he said about a change in attitude. This move comes “as we learn to live with this virus” thanks to the progress of the vaccination program, he said. In taking these steps, along with the removal of domestic restrictions which is still on course for July 19, the UK government has tacitly accepted that COVID-19 is endemic.

ACI-NA EVP Matthew Cornelius recently called on the governments of Canada and the US to treat COVID-19 in the same way. They should “minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in air travel and allow us to reconnect,” he told Routes Americas 2021. “The approach we see is looking to completely eliminate the risk of transmission of COVID in air travel, and that’s not achievable.”

Aviation has demonstrated many times its ability to face complex safety threats, using data and intelligence to mitigate the risk. A pandemic is a different type of threat, but the principles of aerospace risk management can be applied in the same way and with the same outcomes: safe air travel.

COVID-19 will not be eradicated, and while governments will always rightly put the health and safety of citizens first, it must be managed based on science and data.

Photo credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP / Getty Images