Airlines UK has welcomed an announcement by the European Commission allowing vaccinated passengers to travel – and has encouraged the UK government to follow suit.

Under new proposals from the European Commission, the EU would lift its ban on non-essential travel from those outside of the bloc – which could potentially include travellers from the UK and US – provided they have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travel. The lifting of the restriction would only apply to those fully vaccinated with European Union-approved jabs at least 14-days before travel. At present, only vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) – and potentially those which have received clearance from the World Health Organisation will qualify.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to be taking a more cautious approach – currently ministers are said to be considering just a handful of countries as travel destinations for UK residents with Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal and Israel are reported as the most likely destinations open to Britons over the coming weeks. The Daily Telegraph has reported that Spain, Greece and France could be added by the end of June.

Alderslade – successful vaccine rollout is “game-changer”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “This is an extremely important announcement that will pave the way for the reopening of the EU’s tourism and travel industry in time for the peak summer season. The EU should be congratulated for recognising that the success of the vaccine rollout – coupled with sensible vigilance around variants – is a game-changer that can and should enable a risk-based and proportionate system of international travel to resume.”

“It is frustrating that the UK has not gone down the same road, with ministers here still reluctant to acknowledge that we can be more ambitious with our own plans, taking advantage of one of the most impressive vaccination programmes in the world, alongside quicker, cheaper testing and our globally renowned genomic sequencing capability. It’s about getting the risk balance right and we don’t believe the UK has done that yet.”

Vaccinated travellers would still be subject to restrictions including testing and quarantine requirements, set by individual member states.

“Emergency brake” included in EU plan

“The Commission is proposing to ease restrictions on non-essential travel to the EU to take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide, while addressing variants through a new emergency brake mechanism,” said European Commission spokesman Adalbert Jahnz.

The proposals include an “emergency-brake” system under which travel could be shut down from countries where Covid variants are spreading, which would also affect travel for vaccinated passengers from those states.

The EU proposals are due to be discussed by the 27 member states this week. Should a deal be agreed, countries supporting the measure would be expected to align, although the measures would not be binding as border and health measures are decided by country members.

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