Heathrow Airport in London is planning to trial fast-track queues for those arriving from some destinations fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of plans to facilitate smoother travel. The trial scheme by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will mean passengers from certain select countries will be able to upload their vaccination status before boarding. It comes as the aviation industry calls for quarantine-free travel to the UK from lower-risk amber list countries and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to announce such plans later this week.
“At the moment the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated travelling being allowed to do that, is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they’ve had the vaccination already, John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told the BBC. “The trial that we’re starting later this week will allow us to demonstrate we can do that safely with 100 per cent checks on double vaccination before people get on the plane," he said.
The trial, due to start this weekend, will allow passengers who are fully vaccinated and are travelling on selected flights to Heathrow from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to show proof of their vaccination status. It will accept internationally recognised vaccination credentials, including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU digital COVID certificate. India currently remains on the red list of high risk countries from where travel remains effectively banned, with compulsory hotel quarantine for returning British residents.
People taking part in the Heathrow trial from this weekend will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the UK border. Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, said he was “confident" the trial would be successful. “We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again," he said.
To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine rollout, the UK government must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers arriving from amber’ countries, and no later than the domestic reopening on 19 July, added Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss. July 19 is now set as the timeline for an end to all legal lockdown restrictions in England, with rules on international travel set to be finalised in the coming days.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid laid out plans in Parliament on Tuesday to end compulsory 10-day self-isolation for people who come in contact with a COVID positive case for those fully vaccinated against coronavirus with both doses of a vaccine. We can’t live in a world where the only thing we are thinking about is COVID and not about all the other health problems, not about our economic problems, or education challenges, and we have to make use of a vaccine that is thankfully working, he said.
On Tuesday, another 28,773 cases and 37 COVID-19 deaths were reported across the UK. According to government estimates, the number of new infections could rise to 100,000 a day as lockdown measures are lifted but it is hoped the vaccinations and better therapeutics will continue to keep a check on the hospitalisation and death figures.