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How will the worldwide coronavirus vaccine rollout impact travel?

Posted on January 4, 2021 by Vicky Smith
Passenger airplane getting ready for flight

Wondering if the coronavirus vaccines will mean a return to holidays abroad in 2021?

Vaccines that can protect people from the coronavirus are here and they are set to make a huge difference in our fight to return to normal life.

We already have several tried and tested vaccines for COVID-19 that have been found to be effective in clinical trials.

Once countries around the globe assess each vaccine candidate and begin rolling them out, this will gradually help lift restrictions on our lives.

The loss of freedom to explore other countries and enjoy holidays has perhaps been one of the biggest frustrations for many in 2020.

With effective vaccines being used at home and abroad to bring coronavirus figures down, this should mean that overseas travel will gradually become easier over the course of 2021 and the industry is showing signs of optimism.

Travel journalist and broadcaster Simon Calder said: “Companies hope to tap into the appetite for travel from frustrated holidaymakers. Accordingly, a wide range of flights, package holidays and cruises for 2021 and even 2022 are available for booking now.”

Where are we with vaccines

The UK started vaccinating people in the most vulnerable categories – focusing on the elderly and healthcare workers first – in December.

Creating a working vaccine in less than a year was an unprecedented feat – vaccines usually take 10 years to refine and test.

So to have not one but several candidates is truly groundbreaking. Vaccines will help the UK and other countries to fight back against the virus in two key ways.

First of all, trials have shown that when vulnerable people and those who work closely with them are vaccinated they will have protection from getting seriously ill with COVID-19.

Secondly, when the wider population is vaccinated and we start to see hospitalisations and deaths reduce then the government will be able to start lifting the strict restrictions on our lives.

Leading scientists such as Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, have already warned the lifting of restrictions in the UK will be a “gradual” process.

But there is confidence the mass vaccination programme will start to make an impact in the spring.

Professor Whitty said: “Although the very welcome news about vaccines means that we can look forward to 2021 with greater optimism, vaccine deployment will have only a marginal impact in reducing numbers coming into the health service with COVID over the next three months.”

What impact will vaccines have on travel and holidays?

So what does the vaccine mean for holidays?

Many popular European tourist destinations have outlined their plans for mass vaccination.

Germany is set to get started on vaccinating in January 2021, while Spain plans to vaccinate a quarter of its population in the first three months of 2021.

Italy says it is confident that most of its citizens will get the jab by September 2021.

Vaccinations have begun in the US and Canada – two other popular overseas destinations. The US hopes to have vaccinated up to 80% of its population by mid-May.

Once the vaccine’s impact is felt and countries are able to lift strict restrictions on their borders, then travel should of course become easier.

But holidaymakers should be aware that there are already travel providers saying they will need proof of vaccination for travellers.

Australia’s biggest airline Qantas said in November that international travellers will need to prove they have been vaccinated before they are allowed on board.

New Zealand and Australia have both worked hard to completely eradicate the coronavirus from their populations. For this reason travel to these two countries is likely to be difficult for much of 2021.

Australia has announced travel to the country will not be possible until late in the year.

New Zealand has not decided when it will allow international tourists back into the country, but the government is looking at requiring proof of vaccination for visitors.

Cyprus has announced people can travel there from March without a test or quarantine if they can prove they have had the vaccine. This has already led to a spike in bookings to the sunny destination for spring.

If you travel before being offered a vaccine, or without having one, then some destinations will want you to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Parts of Europe such as Italy and the Caribbean, for example, ask travellers to show they have had a negative PCR test within days before their flight.

When will the vaccine make holidays normal?

Rolling out a vaccine to millions of people takes time. There will need to be a steady supply of doses from the manufacturer – and demand will of course be high – and a huge practical effort to vaccinate most of the population.

For this reason it’s unlikely free travel abroad will be normal, like before the pandemic, during 2021.

Although every country has a different timeline for vaccinations, all are keen to reintroduce tourism due to the contribution it makes to their economy.

Brits will also need to consider the return home from their holiday destination. We don’t yet know whether the UK government will maintain quarantine requirements when returning from certain destinations, even if you have had a vaccine.

Issues such as this are likely to become simpler if and when scientists can prove having a COVID-19 vaccine prevents you from being able to transmit the virus.

Because there is no firm dates from any country of when all restrictions will be lifted, before booking any holiday you will need to consider the following:

  • Will you need to provide proof of vaccination to travel either on the airline or on arrival to your destination? Remember with most of the vaccines currently planned for use you will need two doses and protection does not kick in until seven days after the second dose.
  • Will you need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you can leave?
  • Does the destination require you to quarantine?
  • Do you need to quarantine on arriving back from this destination to the UK? You can check the UK travel corridors list here.
  • What are the restrictions in your destination country and how will they impact your trip?
  • Can you get adequate travel insurance cover for the destination you are heading to.
Vicky Smith

by Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is a journalist and freelance content creator. She loves to travel with her family. Her favourite place in the world is a sandy beach in Cornwall.