There are many people waiting for the borders to reopen between the UK and the US for a myriad of reasons: seeing their loved ones, at work, reuniting with friends and family or simply completing the trips they have wanted to take.
As President Biden plans to arrive in the UK next week for the G7 summit in Cornwall, his first trip abroad since accession, the aviation industry has renewed calls to kick-start the journey between the two countries:
- Air traffic controllers again pushed the Biden administration to lift the restrictions at a virtual press conference on Monday, June 7th. The US Travel Association, executives at Heathrow Airport and executives of American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue have called on the US and UK governments to “quickly reopen transatlantic travel.” with the visit of President Biden.
- Both governments have been criticized for not explaining the exact rationale for keeping borders closed in terms of explaining data assumptions and method. Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday, June 8, as reported by The Telegraph that “in the UK, a day’s delay in opening the corridor between the UK and US economy costs £ 23 ($ 32.5) million.” He added that under the traffic light system used by the government, Malta, the United States and the Caribbean should be green.
According to InsureMyTrip, Americans are seeking and buying travel insurance again for trips to European destinations, where Iceland, the UK, Greece and Italy are trending and are back on the Top Ten list for the first time since the pandemic began. For these people, there are several important dates to keep an eye on when the borders may open on both sides (both borders do not have to open at the same time).
Theory 1: The US ban remains in place until the Canadian / Mexican border opens, then after June 21
The border between the United States and Canada, the longest in the world, remain closed until at least 21 June, like the Mexican border (however, it is still possible to fly as the air border is not closed).
This theory makes the most logical sense, as the United States is less likely to revoke the travel ban from the EU and the UK before doing the same for its neighbors.
Theory 2: The UK could include the US on its green, secure list of non-quarantine countries on 28 June
On May 17, the British government announced its secure list of countries from which arrivals to the country did not need quarantine and non-essential travel would be allowed. There were 12 countries on the list, which were updated on June 8 to remove one of these countries, Portugal (so many travelers had to pay rising flights to get home before 4:00 – after which a ten-day quarantine had to be observed) . The United Kingdom is due to update this list of safe countries on 28 June, after which it can add the United States to the list.
However, The Telegraph reported that Matt Hancock, Britain’s health minister, told the public on June 7 that they should not expect any changes to the green list soon and that the summer holidays were out “in the medium term.” It was reported that business and travel staff understand this, so it means additional countries will not be added to the green list on 28 June and foreign holidays will be limited even in July.
Theory 3: Britain will push for a ‘green corridor’ for vaccinated American and British travelers
Many EU countries have introduced traffic light systems with different rules for vaccinated and non-vaccinated travelers, and it seems plausible that the US and the UK could formulate a similar policy.
As reported in The times and The sun, Prime Minister Johnson wants to present the idea of a travel corridor with President Biden at the G7 summit, where whether the US was on a list of amber or red countries, vaccinated travelers could move freely between the two without quarantine.
Theory 4: The United States lifts its travel ban to coincide with the celebration of 4. July
The Financial Times reported that British ministers had “fought” to persuade US opponents to lift the ban on non-US travelers, and that while Boris Johnson planned to raise the issue before the G7 summit, they did not expect the ban to be revoked at the summit or in June.
President Biden has announced that Independence Day will celebrate “our independence from this virus”, and therefore a Whitehall official is quoted as saying that “the best we are likely to get is something that is tied to July 4th.”
Reuters reported that airline officials have also commented that a change might come around July 4th. Asked at a news conference on Friday, June 5, American Airlines President Robert Isom said there was incredible pressure and fierce demand to travel to Europe, and when asked if July 4 would be too late to save the European summer season, he said “We’ll take it when it comes.”
The Biden administration reportedly had a call with British officials on Thursday, May 4, but has not given any official announcement on detailed schedules.
Theory 5: The UK is extending Phase 4 of the lockdown until July 5 and making a decision based on new data at the time
The UK had plans to end its lockdown process on 21 June, but there are now concerns that rising infection rates in the Delta Covid-19 variant across the country are jeopardizing this.
The Financial Times reported that leading British researchers are putting pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to delay the final easing of the lockdown by a few weeks when they reported that the Delta variant became the dominant variant and displaced the previously dominant Alpha (Kent / UK) variant. A senior official told The Financial Times this relaxation may be delayed until 5 July. Whitehall insiders are waiting for more clarity from the numbers before a decision can be made – probably in mid-June.
Professor Christina Pagel, a mathematician at University College London, told the government’s independent weekly briefing that “we now have an exponentially increasing dominant variant that is more transmissible, more vaccine resistant and probably more severe than Alpha.” Likewise, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, told the Financial Times that the proportion of fully vaccinated people in the UK was still too low to feel comfortable with a complete easing of the lockdown on 21 July – but that the UK needed more data to be safe.
Theory 6: The United States revokes all travel bans at the same time and therefore much later in the summer
There are reports that the Biden administration hopes to lift the current travel bans at the same time – the implication is that this could be much further down when the people of Brazil and India are sufficiently vaccinated to make safe travel an option again everywhere.
The United States is also under increasing pressure from individuals to lift the bans. France 24 reported that many families are getting higher in their pressure on the Biden administration to provide an announcement about when Americans might be able to see their families again living abroad. Since the EU announced on May 20 that it would allow vaccinated Americans to visit this summer, many are demanding a reciprocal response from the United States
The problem is especially hard for many European non-immigrant visa holders in the United States who cannot travel back to their families because they may not be allowed to return to the United States when they return. Many of these affected individuals have gathered and lobbied the government on social media under several hashtags like #LoveIsNotTourism, #LoveIsEssential, #FamilyIsNotTourism or #LiftTheTravelBan. The problem has worsened as US consulates across Europe have been closed or worked with reduced capacity to process visa applications and renewals.
The US Embassy in Paris explained how difficult the problem had become as reported by Channel News Asia– “many applicants who were previously able to qualify for a national intervention exemption may not be able to meet the new standards … Those currently in the US should not leave the US to travel back to France unless they understand that they may not be able to re-enter the United States for some time. ”
It has been different for US citizens living in European countries as they are considered to be resident in Europe and have therefore been allowed to travel between their temporary EU homes and permanent homes in the US.
As reported by Reutersthe United States has blocked all non-US citizens from entering the country if they have visited the UK in the last 14 days since March 2020.
Currently, the US is on the UK’s yellow list of trips, meaning non-essential trips are still not recommended, but trips are possible if arrivals are quarantined for ten days and yield a series of negative Covid-19 test results (before and after entrance).
As of June 8, 34.1% of the adult EU population, 48.2% of US residents and 60.6% of UK adults had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.