US on amber list: What does it mean for travel between UK and America?

·3 min read
Making contact: British Airways Boeing 787 at Heathrow (Stuart Bailey/BA)
Making contact: British Airways Boeing 787 at Heathrow (Stuart Bailey/BA)

The US was not among the 12 countries on the green list qualifying for “no quarantine” status as announced by UK transport secretary Grant Shapps. But the pressure is mounting on the two governments to open transatlantic travel.

Mr Shapps announced the countries that would be included on the country’s “green” and “red” lists, with the nations not receiving a designation being placed on the “amber” list.

He said red list countries “should not be visited except in the most extreme of circumstances”.

The United States and most of Europe were put on the UK’s “amber” list which requires arrivals to self-isolate for 10 days and pay for two PCR tests. The public has been advised that they “should not be travelling to ‘amber’ and ‘red’ countries for leisure”.

While non-American travellers from the UK are still banned from entering the US and Americans going to the UK must quarantine for 10 days, several organisations are pushing for weakened travel restrictions between the two countries.

IAG, which owns several airlines including British Airways, has pushed the UK government to open up further with its CEO Luis Gallego saying: “We consider now is the time to start travelling again.

“We believe that the government needs to be a bit ambitious in getting global travel back on track and bring the benefits of all the efforts that the government and people have done with the vaccination rollout.

“I think they need to recognise that people who are vaccinated or have been tested can travel without restrictions.”

He added: “We’re ready to fly, but Government action is needed.”

Mr Gallego said that one of the “key measures” needed before July was “travel corridors without restrictions between countries with successful vaccination rollouts and effective testing such as the UK and the US”.

On Monday, a coalition of travel, airline, union, business and airport groups called on President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fully reopen air travel between the countries “as soon as safely possible”.

Mr Biden and Mr Johnson have a meeting planned for early June. The groups said in a letter to each of the leaders that this meeting “would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the US-UK air travel market for both US and UK citizens”. The US has banned almost all non-citizens from entering the country if they have recently been in the UK.

The letter was signed by the US Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for America, Global Business Travel Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Virgin Atlantic, Association of UK Airlines, and the Aerospace Industries Association, among others.

“The return of transatlantic flying would not only have a significantly positive impact on our respective economies but will also reunite those who have been separated from their loved ones for over a year,” the letter said.

They added: “Safely reopening borders between the US and UK is essential for both countries’ economic recovery from Covid-19.”

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday: “We still have restrictions in place against travel from China and the UK. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m not really sure what the overall strategy is around these continued travel restrictions that we have in place.”

Dr Gottlieb added that the best way to protect Americans against variants of the virus was to vaccinate as many as possible.

“The same mutations that are arising in other parts of the world are arising here as well. They just haven’t gotten a foothold here, in part because we’ve been vaccinating our public,” he said.

He added: “I think as we look out into the summer, we’re going to be able to resume normal activity or something resembling normal activity is still going to be a layer of protection on top of what we do, I think people are still going to be cautious.”

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