UK travellers cheer eased curbs

UK travellers cheer eased curbs

Agents expect busiest weekend of the year; Thailand still on red list

A worker cleans a sign at the international arrivals area of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London in August. (Reuters File Photo)
A worker cleans a sign at the international arrivals area of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London in August. (Reuters File Photo)

LONDON: Travel companies were gearing up for the busiest weekend of the year as holiday bookings surged following the UK government’s announcement on Friday that it would ease travel curbs for the fully vaccinated.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the current system of red, amber and green countries, based on the degree of coronavirus risk, would be scrapped for England from Oct 4 and replaced by a simplified red list of countries with high infection rates.

A handful of countries will also be removed from the red list this coming Wednesday, but Thailand is not among them. British travellers returning from red-list countries face strict Covid testing and costly hotel quarantine requirements.

“Even though the changes were announced late on Friday, bookings surged, making it one of the busiest days of the year,” said David Child, spokesperson for the online travel company Thomas Cook Group.  “We’re looking at this weekend being the busiest of the year so far.”

Airline stocks had already climbed in anticipation of the UK easing restrictions, with Ryanair and British Airways owner IAG both rising around 9% in recent days and shares of EasyJet Plc up 11%.

Alan French, UK chief executive officer of Thomas Cook, predicts a rush to book last-minute and October half-term deals, with reservations for next month up more than 200% compared to August.

From Oct 4, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England from a non-red designated country will not need pre-departure screening. Later in October, the restrictions will be eased further with the option for a “Day 2” PCR test to be replaced by a cheaper lateral flow test.

The number of red-list countries will be cut by eight from Wednesday. Holiday hotspots including Turkey and the Maldives are among the destinations opening up, alongside Egypt, Oman, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

“We would now welcome the government working with other countries and international bodies to align vaccination certification and travel rules so that our customers can start looking ahead to holidays around the world — especially the US,” French said in a statement Friday.

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