United Kingdom exempts some countries from travel quarantine — but Canada isn't one of them

·5 min read
United Kingdom exempts some countries from travel quarantine — but Canada isn't one of them
A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport. Fully vaccinated travellers from Canada will still have to quarantine upon entry to the United Kingdom, but not travellers from the U.S. and many European countries. (Hannah McKay/Reuters - image credit)
A traveller arrives at Heathrow Airport. Fully vaccinated travellers from Canada will still have to quarantine upon entry to the United Kingdom, but not travellers from the U.S. and many European countries. (Hannah McKay/Reuters - image credit)

The United Kingdom has announced that travellers to the country who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the European Union or United States will be exempt from mandatory quarantine upon arrival — but fully vaccinated travellers from Canada will still have to undergo quarantine.

The change goes into effect on Aug. 2, according to a news release sent out Wednesday by the U.K. government, which made the decision affecting England. The Scottish government and Welsh government later sent out releases confirming that both those countries would adopt the same policy. The government of Northern Ireland followed suit on Thursday, bringing the United Kingdom into alignment.

"Passengers who are fully vaccinated in the EU with vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or in the USA with vaccines authorised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or in the Swiss vaccination programme, will be able to travel to England without having to quarantine or take a day 8 test on arrival," the news release from the U.K. government says.

France is a notable exception — travellers to the U.K. from that country will still have to quarantine, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The exemption applies to some European countries outside the EU, such as Norway and Iceland.

While the U.K. Department for Transport has confirmed for CBC News that the change does not apply to Canadians, no reason has been given for the exclusion.

In a statement issued to CBC News, a Department for Transport spokesperson did not say why Canadians are not exempt.

"We are taking a phased approach to restarting international travel while protecting public health," the statement says. "We want to welcome all international visitors back to the U.K. and are working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets and holiday destinations."

A spokesperson for the British High Commission in Ottawa issued a similar statement to CBC News.

"Ensuring safe and open travel is a priority and we are engaging with international partners on certification to ensure travel for vaccinated people is unhindered in the future," says that statement.

Travellers from Canada to the U.K. will still have to quarantine at home or in the place they're staying for 10 days, and take a COVID-19 test on or after their eighth day in the country. A few exceptions apply — one of which covers travellers who have been vaccinated in the U.K. A full list of rules can be found on the Department for Transport's website.

Just over 57 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and over have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the federal government. That's similar to the rate of vaccination among the same age group in the United States, according to data from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to VisitBritain, the official tourist board for Great Britain, travellers from Canada made around 874,061 visits to the U.K. in 2019.

Travellers from the United States, meanwhile, made just under 4.5 million visits, making the U.S. the top country for inbound visitors to the U.K. France, Germany, Ireland and Spain round out the top five — all of them EU members.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada declined to comment directly on the decision.

"The United Kingdom's decision regarding quarantine exemptions is a decision made solely by the Government of the United Kingdom. For further questions on this decision, we kindly refer you to the High Commission of the United Kingdom in Canada," it reads.

"The government of Canada has consistently and repeatedly advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada since March 2020."

When asked about the change in travel rules at an announcement in Vancouver today, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said she respects the decision.

"I have a great deal of respect for every country's sovereign right to decide during COVID who can come into the country and on what terms," she said.

WATCH: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she respects the right of Britain to control their borders during the pandemic

Michael Matheson, the Scottish transport secretary, cited the success of the vaccine rollout in the U.S. and EU as a reason for the decision.

"This has only been made possible due to the overwhelming success of our vaccination programme here in Scotland when coupled with successful rollouts of vaccination schemes in the EU and U.S.," he said in a news release.

"Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to travel to Scotland under this significant relaxation of international travel measures, providing a boost for the tourism sector and wider economy while ensuring public health is protected."

Scotland says it's accepting both the EU Digital COVID Certificate and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "white card" as proof of vaccination.

Wales reluctantly signs on

Although Wales agreed to the change of policy, Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said in a media statement that the Welsh government "regrets" the U.K. government's decision. She cited concerns about importing coronavirus variants of concern.

"We regret the U.K. government's proposals to further remove quarantine requirements. However, as we share an open border with England it would be ineffective to introduce separate arrangements for Wales," she said.

"Therefore, we will be aligning with the other U.K. administrations and implementing this decision for Wales. We look to the U.K. government to provide assurances that processes will be in place to ensure those travelling in to the U.K. have been fully vaccinated."

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