Heathrow is to fast-track double-jabbed arrivals: Vaccinated BA and Virgin Atlantic passengers on selected flights will get their own lanes under pilot scheme launched this week
- Passengers arriving from selected destinations can use the new fast-track lane
- The trial is being run by Heathrow in partnership with the airlines BA and Virgin
- It comes as Grant Shapps is expected to set out new travel rules later today
- it includes ending requirement of double-jabbed passengers to isolate on return
Heathrow is to trial fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arrivals, as the airline industry steps up pressure on ministers to open up quarantine-free travel to amber destinations.
Passengers flying in on selected BA and Virgin flights will be able to upload their coronavirus vaccination certificate before boarding.
On arrival at the airport, passengers will then be directed to dedicated lanes at the border to speed their passage through immigration.
It comes as the Government is set to tear up travel quarantine rules from as early as July 19, allowing millions of fully-vaccinated Britons to take summer holidays abroad without having to self-isolate.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to set out details later this week of the Government’s plans to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival.
It could open up the possibility of holidays to the likes of Greece, France and Spain this summer.
Currently, those wishing to visit the popular holiday destinations – and others on the Amber list – are required to self-isolate for 10 days when they arrive back in the UK.
Heathrow (pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow Airport) is to trial fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arrivals as the airline industry steps up pressure on ministers to open up quarantine-free travel to amber destinations
Arriving passengers queue at UK Border Control at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, June 29
Fully-vaccinated travellers could avoid quarantine after Freedom Day
Boris Johnson is set to tear up travel quarantine rules from as early as July 19, allowing millions of fully-vaccinated Britons to take summer holidays abroad without having to self-isolate.
Ministers are expected to make a final decision tomorrow on exactly when to drop the requirement for double-jabbed travellers to quarantine after returning from amber list destinations such as France, Spain and Greece.
But multiple sources told the Mail that the Prime Minister is determined to implement the move on so-called ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, when most remaining domestic restrictions will be scrapped.
It follows the departure of former health secretary Matt Hancock, who had pushed for the change to be delayed until as late as mid-August.
Whitehall sources said Border Force – which had asked for more time to prepare for introducing the change at ports and airports – has now dropped its objections, removing the last major hurdle to early implementation.
One source said: ‘Border Force do have to make some technical changes and they had asked for a bit longer to get the new systems in place. But they can see the writing on the wall on this and they have accepted it will be the 19th.’
Another source said: ‘It is not just that people can see the writing on the wall – they can see it is the Prime Minister who is writing it and the objections to the 19th are falling away.’
Heathrow together with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said the new fast-lane pilot was essential that there was no delay in implementing the changes if the Government, as expected, lifts amber list travel restrictions on double-jabbed passengers.
The scheme will initially involve fully vaccinated volunteers travelling on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay, Jamaica, and New York.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19.’
Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, he said that the move was important to restore trade links between the UK and the US – saying that the EU had ‘come out of the blocks faster’ in terms of Transatlantic travel.
He added: ‘The US is our biggest trading market, the only country with whom we have a balanced trade surplus.
‘And a lot of that trade goes by air on planes from Heathrow, and yet the French and the Germans have got ahead of us by coming out the blocks faster.
‘We can’t take for granted these historic competitive advantages we have. If we don’t get aviation started again then the UK could fall behind.’
His comments were echoed by Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss who said: ‘To reap the benefits of the UK’s world-leading vaccine roll out, 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 July 19.
‘The UK is already falling behind US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake.’
Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, added he was ‘confident’ the trial would be successful.
He said: ‘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.’
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye (pictured left) said the scheme will allow the industry to ‘show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check in’. Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss (pictured right) said the Government ‘must act now to remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated passengers from Amber list countries’.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to set out details later this week of the Government’s plans to end the requirement for travellers from amber list countries to self-isolate on arrival
Daily hospitalisations from Covid spiked above 400 today for the first time since March and are starting to rise exponentially, though from a low starting point
Sajid Javid faced fury today as he revealed the requirement for the double-jabbed to self-isolate will not be dropped until August 16 – dooming millions more healthy people to putting their lives on hold.
The Health Secretary said the ‘protective wall’ thrown up by the vaccine drive meant that ministers can ‘look afresh’ at rules when people are ‘pinged’ for contact with an infected individual.
From the middle of next month people who have received two doses – with the second administered at least two weeks previously – can take PCR tests rather than self-isolating. Under-18s will also not be subject to the restrictions from the same date.
But the timetable means ‘scary’ numbers will be caught in the system after ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19, with furious businesses warning they are on the brink of disaster with ‘massive’ staff absence and customers bailout out of bookings. Others also raged that the government is failing to provide any clarity on the rules for getting staff back in offices.
Mr Javid told the Commons that he had looked at changing the isolation rules earlier, but was ‘more comfortable’ waiting until even more people are vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told The Sun: ‘It would be pointless introducing it in mid-August as the summer travel season will have been lost almost entirely — along with tens of thousands of jobs.’
The call came after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced people in England who have been double jabbed – as well as the under 18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
However, there was consternation among some Tory MPs the change will not come into force until August 16, almost a month after other controls are due to have ended.
With cases continuing to soar, there were fears millions of people could be required to quarantine in the meantime, potentially damaging output just as the economy looks to pick up pace.
Mr Javid has acknowledged the numbers of new infections could rise to 100,000-a-day as restrictions come to an end.
Ministers are relying on the vaccination programme to protect people from becoming seriously ill with the virus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
However former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned the hospitality sector – already ravaged by the economic fallout from the pandemic – could be particularly hard hit by the delay in easing the self-isolation rules.
‘Why would you even go to a pub (after step four of the lifting of lockdown)? This makes it worse,’ he told The Daily Telegraph.
‘I wouldn’t go to a pub that wasn’t still having six around a table and social distancing, otherwise you run the risk of everyone in the pub being pinged and locked down.’
Mr Javid said the aim was to ‘manage the virus in a way that is proportionate to the pandemic’ while maintaining as much freedom as possible.
Britain WON’T return to normal until at least NEXT spring and restrictions could be reimposed this winter as the country will take ‘quite a long time’ to return to normality, Chris Whitty warns
Britain will not return to normal until at least next year, Chris Whitty warned today
By Connor Boyd, Assistant Health Editor for MailOnline
Britain will not return to a pre-pandemic normal this year even though ministers are pressing ahead with Freedom Day, Chris Whitty warned today.
England’s chief medical officer hinted that some curbs may have to be rolled back later this year when the NHS faces a ‘difficult winter’.
But, in a glimmer of hope, Professor Whitty claimed he anticipated that the UK could return to the ‘status quo’ by next spring.
However, he admitted that he would be ‘surprised’ if British life managed to return to pre-Covid normality before then, adding it was ‘going to take quite a long time to get back to normality’.
Covid hospital admissions and deaths are expected to rise in the weeks and months after July 19, when all social distancing measures are due to be lifted in England.
Officials are also bracing for a rise in other respiratory illnesses that have been suppressed by lockdown measures during the pandemic, such as flu.
But it’s hoped enough people will have been vaccinated or protected due to prior infection by next spring that the coronavirus will no longer trigger a deadly surge.
Speaking to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) annual conference, Professor Whitty said: ‘There will almost certainly be a Covid surge [in winter] and that will be on top of a return to a more normal respiratory surge.
‘It’s going to take quite a long time, I think, to get back to normality and I certainly would be surprised if we got back to what most of us would see as a kind of status quo — before the pandemic — by the next spring.
‘Because I think we’ve got this current wave, hopefully there will be a period of quieter Covid after that, and then it will still be quite a difficult winter, especially for the NHS – then by next spring I’m hoping slightly more into a more predictable pattern.’
Yesterday at a Downing Street press conference, Professor Whitty backed the Government’s plans to push ahead with July 19 in the face of surging infection numbers.
He claimed delaying lockdown beyond July 19 will not reduce the number of Covid deaths and could potentially lead to a worse peak in winter.
More than 100 Britons could die each day from Covid when Britain finally emerges from lockdown later this month, according to the Government’s own assumptions. No10 said it expects up to 50,000 cases a day by July 19 Freedom Day and potentially 100,000 daily cases in August. About 0.1 per cent – or one in 1,000 – of people who catch Covid will die from the virus. The above graph shows how cases and deaths could rise based on these remarks. Deaths lag behind case spikes by about three weeks
Joining the Prime Minister at the podium of a Downing Street press conference last night, the CMO acknowledged that while some restrictions will always be better than none in terms of containing Covid, at some point they have to be released for the sake of the economy and impact on wider health.
With that in mind, Professor Whitty revealed he believed ‘quite strongly’ that there are many benefits to unlocking now rather than waiting until autumn – which some have suggested could buy No10 time to get every adult fully vaccinated.
It would get the big bang of Covid infections and hospital admissions — expected when social distancing comes to an end — out of the way in summer when the NHS is less busy.
‘At a certain point, you move to the situation where instead of actually averting hospitalisations and deaths, you move over to just delaying them,’ he said.
‘So you’re not actually changing the number of people who will go to hospital or die, you may change when they happen.
‘There is quite a strong view by many people, including myself actually, that going in the summer has some advantages, all other things being equal, to opening up into the autumn when schools are going back and when we’re heading into the winter period when the NHS tends to be under greatest pressure for many other reasons.’
His comments came on the back of modelling from prominent SAGE member ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson that suggested late July was an apparent ‘sweet spot’ for releasing curbs.
His team at Imperial College London found delaying the original June 21 date until later this month likely prevented thousands of deaths. Delaying them until autumn or winter could result in more fatalities.
Even though more people would be vaccinated, scientists believe releasing curbs in winter would cause a bigger spike because people spend more time indoors and other respiratory viruses are rife. The NHS will also be grappling with normal winter pressures.
Professor Whitty, Professor Ferguson, who was instrumental in Britain’s first lockdown last spring, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, are all believed to be in the ‘if not now, then when’ camp.
The rise in coronavirus cases has been driving up the numbers forced to self-isolate after being ‘pinged’ – with the trend now set to continue into the middle of August
Meanwhile, official figures today showed Britain’s daily Covid hospital admissions have reached a four month high, rising by 50 per cent in a week to their highest level since March.
Department of Health figures showed hospitalisations reached 406 on June 30 — the most recent day figures are available for.
It is a sign the explosion in cases over the past month is now beginning to put extra pressure on the NHS.
Covid deaths also jumped their highest level since the end of April, increasing 20.3 per cent in a week. Another 37 victims were recorded today.
Meanwhile, infections are continuing to spiral across the UK, jumping to 28,773 — up 49 per cent on last Tuesday and the highest daily figure since January 29.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid today admitted the toll could reach 100,000 a day by August, as No10 pushes ahead with Freedom Day on July 19 as part of its drive for society to live alongside the virus.
Hospitalisations and deaths are still expected to rise in line with soaring cases but vaccines have broken the once-impenetrable link between vulnerable people getting Covid and becoming severely ill, leaving ministers confident that the third wave this summer won’t be as bad as previous surges.
If both measures spike at the same speed as cases, then deaths may breach 100 a day by mid-August and hospital admissions may reach 1,500 — similar to levels seen last September as the second wave began to pick up pace.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s daily Covid infections fell for the fifth consecutive day today — offering a glimmer of hope that England’s outbreak will not spiral uncontrollably when the country comes out of lockdown on July 19.
During a round of interviews this morning, the normally cautious Professor Ferguson said pressing ahead with July was ‘justifiable’ and revealed he was ‘reasonably optimistic’.
Speaking about last night’s announcement, Professor Ferguson told the Today Programme: ‘This is a slight gamble, it’s a slight experiment at the moment, and I think it’s justifiable and I’m reasonable optimistic, but policy will have to remain flexible.’
He said the vaccines’ effect on hospitalisations and deaths gave him confidence that the NHS will be able to cope despite rising cases, but warned that if infections continue to grow exponentially then hospitals could be pushed to the brink.
The Government scientific adviser added: ‘At the peak of the second wave 50,000 cases would translate into something like 500 deaths, but that’s going to be much lower this time, more like 50 or so.
‘The challenge is, there’s still the potential of getting very large numbers of cases and so if we get very high numbers of cases a day, 150,000 or 200,000 it could still cause some pressure to the health system.
‘If we end up in something close to the worst-case scenario we and other groups are looking at, which I think is unlikely but can’t be ruled out, then yes there will need to be some course direction later.’
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