Mass vaccination against coronavirus is underway in the UK, raising hopes British holidaymakers will be able to travel this year without the need for quarantine. In fact, the Cypriot government has already outlined plans to allow inoculated Brits and those who test negative for Covid into the country from May without restrictions.
Turkey will also welcome Brits without proof of vaccination this summer but negative PCR tests will be required.
Additionally, the EU has announced plans to introduce a Digital Green Certificate, which will not require a person to be vaccinated. To use this system, you either need to be vaccinated, show you’ve tested negative, or show you’ve previously recovered from Covid-19 to freely travel throughout the EU. However, it is not clear whether this will be available to third country nationals outside the EU – such as Brits.
There are still several questions about the vaccine rollout that need to be answered though. Once more is known about the effect of vaccines on transmission and their efficacy against new variants, the UK government says it can look to introduce a system to allow those who have been vaccinated to travel more freely internationally.
Do coronavirus vaccines stop transmission of the virus?
So far, one study carried out on healthcare workers at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge has shown that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine could slow the spread of coronavirus.
Another study on the efficacy of the Oxford – AstraZeneca vaccine by researchers at Oxford University says data ‘suggests vaccine may have substantial effect on transmission of the virus’. This is because it reduces the number of infected individuals in the population. This study is not yet formally published.
This brings hope that the vaccines will have an effect on transmission, but further studies will need to be carried out before we can be confident a vaccinated traveller cannot pass on the virus. This would especially negatively effect people in countries where the vaccine rollout is slower.
The UK government also doesn’t want a vaccine passport system to disadvantage people who haven’t yet been offered the vaccine, so this is unlikely to be rolled out quickly. It is also not currently known how the digital passport or certificate would work and the idea has its critics. Read more about vaccine passports.
For now, testing remains key, as do precautionary measures such as face masks.
Will vaccines be essential for travel in future?
If the vaccine does help stop the spread of coronavirus, it seems likely some countries will ultimately make it mandatory for entry, but not all. As mentioned above, the EU’s system for example, proposes to accept negative tests and proof of previous infection and recovery from coronavirus.
Some airlines and cruise companies may only allow passage to those with the vaccine.
Saga has already said it will require customers on its holidays and cruises to have the vaccination. It will offer refunds to those that aren’t vaccinated.
Qantas has also said that passengers can only travel with it if they have had the vaccine when it restarts international flights.
P&O Cruises says it requires Brits to be vaccinated to be allowed on board its new UK-itinerary cruises. These are new staycation cruises that won’t dock anywhere. Instead, the ships will sail the British coastline in search of a sunny spot to anchor.
For a period, it’s likely we’ll see a mix of airlines and destinations requiring either testing or vaccine, as the latter becomes more widely available.
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Will airlines require vaccination to board a flight?
Some are likely to, yes. Australian airline Qantas, for example, has already said it will be changing its terms and conditions to make this a requirement for all international passengers.
However, some short-haul European carriers have said they are unlikely to introduce similar measures. Ryanair, easyJet and Aer Lingus will not introduce mandatory vaccinations for passengers, it has been reported, with Aer Lingus instead calling for rapid testing.
However, if European countries introduce a requirement to be vaccinated, airlines may be required to check passengers’ right to entry before boarding the plane. This has already happened in 2020 with testing. For some countries, airlines have been required to check if a passenger has taken the required test, before boarding.
Will cruise lines and holiday companies require vaccination?
Saga is the first large holiday company to announce it will require all customers on holidays and cruises to have been vaccinated. It has taken the decision off the back of a customer survey that showed that clients overwhelmingly supported the policy. Passengers will also need to take a COVID test at the departure terminal.
Cruise lines Celebrity and Royal Caribbean told us: ‘Guests must ensure they are medically and physically fit for travel…in many cases inoculations are recommended, but in some circumstances, they are required.’
That’s not definitive, but does suggest that mandatory vaccines are possible. Cruises that have restarted have already insisted passengers take a test before boarding and once on board.
Vaccine checks at borders
Some countries already refuse entry to people who can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated for yellow fever, for example, so we could see similar restrictions for people who haven’t had coronavirus jabs.
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has already said the jab will be ‘as mandatory as you can possibly make it’ for Australians, so it’s feasible that visitors to Australia will need to prove they’ve been vaccinated in future.
If compulsory vaccinations are introduced at your destination, details should be listed on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website. It’s not yet known whether producing a negative test result for coronavirus upon arrival will be deemed sufficient for travellers who cannot or will not have a COVID-19 vaccination.
Can I go on holiday if I haven’t had the vaccine?
The government is aiming to offer all adults their first vaccine dose by early June, so we could be into autumn by the time everyone is offered their second dose. So what does that mean for summer holidays? And what if you decide against inoculation?
Several countries have already said they will allow negative test results to be shown as an alternative to proof of inoculation – Turkey is one of those countries.
Cyprus will allow vaccinated Brits in without the need for test or quarantine from May. However, the Cypriot government has not said it’s mandatory. If the UK is on its green list it will allow you to enter with proof of a negative Covid-19 test too.
The EU hopes to roll out Digital Green Certificates by summer to open up travel. However, it is unclear if this will only help EU member citizens, or if third country nationals, such as Brits will also be able to use these to travel there.
Iceland also plans to accept digital vaccine certificates from those in EU and Schengen countries, but it already will accept those who can prove they have antibodies with an antigen test.
Other countries could take a firmer stance and some could change their policies later to only allow vaccinated tourists. Until countries make these firm decisions, there are no guarantees on where you will be able to travel without being vaccinated.
What if I can’t have the vaccine and I’ve already booked a holiday?
Under the Package Travel Regulations, travel companies (including cruise liners) are required by law to tell you about the health and safety requirements at your destination. So they have to inform you if you need to provide proof of Covid-19 inoculation. But they aren’t required to offer you a refund if you book, and subsequently refuse the vaccine.
If there’s a medical reason for doing so and you have evidence of this from your doctor, you may still be allowed into the country. For yellow fever, for example, GPs can issue a medical exemption form that’s typically accepted.
But if you choose not to have the vaccine, whether on medical grounds or for another reason, and decide not to go on the holiday as a result, this is likely to be considered ‘disinclination to travel’, and standard terms and conditions apply if you choose to cancel.
If you’re unable to be vaccinated against Covid-19, you may want to hold off on booking a holiday for 2021 until the situation is clearer.
Vaccines and travel insurance
No travel insurance policy covers disinclination to travel, so if vaccines become mandatory at your destination, you won’t be able to claim back the costs of cancelling your holiday if you decide not to go.
Refusing a vaccine could also affect your emergency medical cover. Travel insurance policies sometimes contain exclusions relating to vaccinations. That means if you visit a country without getting the NHS-recommended inoculations, for example, you may not be covered if you end up getting a disease the vaccine would have protected against.
As far as we’re aware, no similar exclusions relating to the coronavirus vaccine have yet been added to travel insurance policies. But it’s something we could see in the coming weeks and months, as many travel insurers do now include cover for catching coronavirus while on holiday.