I do not underestimate for a second just how difficult the last 16 months have been for those who have not been able to travel to see their families, for travel and tourism and for the aviation sector itself of course, and no Minister, let alone the Transport Secretary, would ever want to curtail our freedom and ask people not to travel, but protecting public health has rightly been, and will continue to be, the overriding priority of this Government, which is why we introduced some of the toughest border measures in the world.
However, thanks to our brilliant vaccination programme, we are now in a position where we can start to think about how we live with coronavirus, while returning life to a sense of normality. Last week, I said at this Dispatch Box that the Government intended to ease restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list countries. I am now pleased to be able to provide more detail.
As one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, we must use these advantages to restore many of the freedoms that have been necessarily lost over recent months. So I can confirm today that from 19 July UK residents who are fully vaccinated through the UK vaccine roll-out will no longer have to self-isolate when they return to England. They will still be required to take a test three days before returning—the pre-departure test—demonstrating that they are negative before they travel and a PCR test on or before day two, but they will no longer be required to take a day eight test. In essence, this means that, for fully vaccinated travellers, the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same. To be clear, a full vaccination means 14 days have passed since someone’s final dose of the vaccine. It is also important to note that health matters are devolved, so decision making and implementation may differ across UK Administrations. We will continue to work with the devolved Administrations to ensure we achieve our shared objectives of a safe, sustainable and robust return to international travel.
The change I am announcing today will prioritise those vaccinated in the UK. However, as I made clear last week, we want to welcome international visitors back to the UK and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations later this summer, such as the United States and the European Union. I will update the House in due course on how we approach vaccinated individuals from other countries.
When I highlighted the potential policy to the House last week, I explained that we needed to take some additional time to look at the evidence on children, who will not, of course, have been able to benefit from vaccines, and how they will be treated. I can tell the House today that children under 18 returning from amber list countries will not have to isolate on their return, nor take a day eight test. Children between the ages of five and 10 will only need to take a day two test. As before, children aged four and under will be exempt from all testing and isolation requirements. I know this was a big concern of families. After working with scientists and public health experts, I am delighted to be able to offer that reassurance today.
The success of our vaccine programme has been aided by those selflessly creating the great benefits for society and for the rest of the world by being part of the clinical trials, without which we would not have this vaccine programme. We committed to ensuring they are not disadvantaged as a result of being part of those trials, and I am delighted to announce that those on approved clinical trials in the UK will also not need to self-isolate, or take the day eight test after arrival from an amber list country. Passengers will need to prove their vaccination status, either through the covid pass, which is available on the main NHS app, not the covid app, or via the accessible letter, which can be obtained by calling 119, for those without access to smartphones. Passengers returning to England will be asked to include their vaccination status on their passenger locator form if they wish to benefit from the exemption to self-isolate. Transport operators and carriers will be required to check a passenger’s proof of being fully vaccinated before they are able to get on the form of transport.
The Government have been working closely with international partners on restarting international travel safely through certification. I am pleased to announce to the House today that more than 30 countries and territories are now recognising vaccine certification as part of entry requirements, and either accepting the proof of vaccination letter or the NHS app. We will continue to increase that number, so that the NHS app becomes the natural default. Passengers should of course check Foreign Office travel advice to understand the latest entry requirements and covid-19 rules at their destination.
We know that travel is important and that many people have not been able to travel for the last year and a half. This is not, of course, just about holidays, eager as we are for time in the sun; it is also about reuniting families who have been apart throughout the pandemic. It is about helping businesses to trade and grow and supporting the aviation sector, which hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on. The Government have backed that industry through £7 billion of support through this pandemic. As they tell me, the support is of course very welcome, but the only way to actually recover is to allow them to fly and for travel to resume again.
That is why I am also pleased to announce that, from 19 July, we will remove the guidance that people should not travel to countries on the amber list. That means that people will be able to travel to amber list countries for leisure and business and to see family. I am sure the whole House will welcome that development and our approach to international travel.
However, I want to be clear that, as we begin to ease restrictions, travel will not be the same as it was in, say, 2019. People should continue to check Foreign Office travel advice and, where possible, travel outside busy weekend times. Importantly, they should expect that their experience at the border will be different, because longer waiting times will be necessitated by the risks, even as we introduce and expand the range of e-gates available to read the passenger locator forms. Public health remains our key priority, which is why we will not make any changes to requirements applying to those arriving from countries on the red list, even where they are fully vaccinated.
The measures I have announced today have been designed in close co-operation with my right hon. Friend the Health and Social Care Secretary, along with medical and scientific experts, to ensure we can continue to minimise the risk of new variants. As many of us know from personal travel experience, the Government will not hesitate to act if required and the data suggests that needs to happen. In other words—to put this on the record—an amber list country could still turn red, necessitating a change in behaviour when people return to the UK. Indeed, if a country goes into red, there will be mandatory hotel quarantine.
The UK has achieved many hard-won gains through our successful vaccination programme and the continued spirit and determination of the British people. We continue to encourage people to take up the vaccine when offered, not only to protect themselves but to restore previous freedoms more safely.
19 July will mark the next step of this cautious reopening of international travel. Thanks to the Government’s incredible success with the vaccine programme, people in England will be able to travel more easily to visit family and friends who they have not seen for a long time, and also get business moving again, kickstarting our economy while keeping the UK safe and supporting a wide range of jobs and industries in the process. I commend this statement to the House.