Hopes of a summer US-UK travel corridor fade as officials say 'not going to happen soon'
Despite pleas from both travel industry leaders and travelers on both sides of the Atlantic, it appears as if the possibility of a corridor between the U.S. and U.K. is unlikely to happen this summer.
On Monday night, the Financial Times reported that talks of a travel corridor between the two countries were at a deadlock and unlikely to reach an agreement to open a travel corridor by the end of next month.
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According to the report, U.S. officials are concerned about the rise in cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the U.K., as well as the uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
It's not just one-sided, either. The FT quoted one U.K. government official as saying that the travel corridor was "not going to happen soon." The source went on to say, "We thought July was the earliest we might be able to get something in place, but now it's looking more like September."
Since March 2020, the U.S. has kept its borders closed to non-nationals coming from the U.K. — and other Schengen Area countries. As such, tourism from Europe (including the U.K.) to the U.S. has been completely off the table.
Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said that reopening the U.S. to EU citizens would be "premature," despite the EU reopening its borders to American citizens for tourism earlier this month.
Likewise, the U.S. remains on the U.K.'s medium-risk amber list. Amber designation requires that arriving passengers in the U.K. have a pre-departure test result, as well as quarantine for 10 days on arrival. The passenger must pre-book a set of tests prior to travel to take on days two and eight of quarantine.
Related: All 147 countries and territories that are on the UK’s travel amber list
For amber arrivals in England, that quarantine period can be shortened via the country's Test to Release scheme. After five full days of quarantine, the arrival must take an additional PCR test. If it returns a negative result, they can forgo the rest of their quarantine period, but must still take the day-eight test. In total, a Test to Release arrival will take four COVID-19 tests.
“There is no reason for the U.S. to be absent from the U.K. green list,” Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said previously. “This overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the successful vaccination programs in both the U.K. and the U.S.”
Since late last year, there were calls on the governments of the U.S. and U.K. to establish a travel corridor between the two countries. However, with waves of COVID cases on both sides of the Atlantic, the corridor has been continuously delayed.
Most recently, there's been a greater push from the beleaguered travel industries on their respective governments to open the corridor. Earlier this month, airline executives from British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, among others, pushed the leaders to establish a corridor at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England.
Related: Airline executives pressure governments to open UK-US corridor at G7 Summit
The G7 Summit came and went without any news about a corridor. However, U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on 9 June that the two had set up a joint "UK/US Taskforce" in order to "help facilitate the reopening of transatlantic travel."
However, a new spike in COVID-19 cases in the U.K. — a large number of which being the concerning Delta variant — has slowed those plans. On Monday, the U.K. reported 22,868 new COVID-19 cases, and 116,287 over the past seven days — a nearly 70% increase from the same period a week prior.
That said, the country has seen a successful vaccination rollout thus far. More than 44 million U.K. citizens have received their first dose of a vaccine — more than 84% of the population. Meanwhile, more than 32 million have received both doses — more than 61% of the population.
But it's the spike in cases that is concerning not just American officials, but those around the world. On Monday, Hong Kong classified the U.K. as "extremely high-risk," choosing to ban all passenger flights from the U.K. Additionally, Portugal, Malta and Spain imposed new requirements for British travelers — specifically those who are unvaccinated.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the EU to mandate all British travelers quarantine for 14 days, as well as halting all non-essential travel. However, those plans have not advanced.