UK reviews making booster doses obligatory for quarantine-free travel

A person who has not had a Covid booster is considered fully vaccinated and can travel from France to the UK without the need to quarantine on arrival but the UK prime minister says this could soon change

16 November 2021

The UK is looking into making booster shots a part of its Covid health pass for certain demographics, which will also affect travel restrictions Pic: Rido / Shutterstock

By Thomas Brent

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the government is making plans to add booster Covid vaccine doses to the country’s NHS Covid pass and that getting a booster jab will make people’s lives “easier,” including for foreign travel. 

“I think what the general lesson is from anybody who wants to travel, you can see that getting fully vaccinated with a booster is going to be something that will, on the whole, make your life easier in all kinds of ways, including on foreign travel,” he said at a press conference yesterday (November 15). 

This would impact people living in the UK who travel abroad, including those with second homes in places such as France, but also visitors to the UK.

Several European countries, including France, have introduced or plan to introduce Covid health pass booster dose requirements for certain age groups or populations.

Read more: France mandatory Covid booster jab from December: Who does it concern?

Read more: New restrictions in EU, rules on France-Belgian border tighten

People aged 40 and over and those who are vulnerable to serious forms of Covid now eligible for a booster Covid dose in the UK.

Fully vaccinated travellers from France to the UK currently do not need to quarantine on arrival and no longer need a pre-departure Covid test, but they are still required to pay for one Covid test that should be taken within two days of arriving in the UK. 

Those who are not considered fully vaccinated must get a pre-departure test, quarantine for ten days on arrival in the UK and pay for two further Covid tests to be taken on or before days two and eight after arrival. 

Read more: Covid-19 rules for travel to and from France

UK government sources have said that people will eventually require a booster Covid dose to be considered fully vaccinated, The Guardian newspaper has reported. It says that this could be in place by “early spring” in England. 

Professor Wei Shen Lim, who is the chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, has said that booster doses may be extended to people under 40 at some stage, but this was not a certainty. 

The UK’s booster dose campaign

The UK is now offering booster doses to everyone aged 40 and over and those who are at risk of serious forms of Covid, as well as certain other professionals at risk through their jobs.

The latest data from November 14 shows that 12,860,751 people in the UK have received a booster Covid dose. 

Currently, booster doses do not appear on the NHS Covid pass, and are not required for the pass to be eligible. 

France’s booster dose campaign

France is currently offering a booster dose to everyone aged 65 and over, those at risk of serious forms of Covid, as well as health professionals and close family members of those at high risk from Covid.

From early December, France will roll out booster doses to everyone aged 50 and over. 

The latest data from November 11 shows that France has given a booster dose to 4,041,242 people.

From December 15, a booster dose will be required for everyone aged 65 and over who was vaccinated over six months prior in order for their vaccination certificate to be valid as part of France’s health pass scheme. 

It is not yet known if this measure will be extended to other age groups. 

Read more: How will UK over-65s prove Covid booster for French health pass?

France’s health service quality regulator the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has said that given the current data available, it will not change its opinion and recommend booster doses for the general population. 

However, the authority did not rule out this as a possibility at a later date, and said it is waiting for further modelling from the research centre the Pasteur Institute. 

This means that neither the UK or France have concrete plans to roll out booster doses to the whole population yet. If any booster dose requirements for health passes do come into effect with regards to travel, it will likely first affect older people who are eligible to receive booster doses. 

The HAS otherwise stated that booster doses are effective in “reducing both transmission and the risk of severe disease in all ages”. 

The UK worried about Europe’s rising Covid cases

Mr Johnson said at the press conference that “a new wave of Covid has steadily swept through central Europe and is now affecting our nearest neighbours in western Europe.

“We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will wash up on our shores, but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. 

Cases are rising across most European countries, with countries such as Austria and Netherlands particularly badly affected.

However, the UK has for several weeks been reporting significantly higher Covid case rates than most other European countries. 

Data from Statista.com from November 7 shows that over the course of the two weeks prior to that, the UK had recorded 528,235 Covid cases, the second highest figure in Europe behind Russia. 

It is over 200,000 cases more than Germany, the EU country to have registered the most Covid cases in the same time. Germany has around 16 million more people in the country than the UK.

In the same two-week period, France, which has a similar population to the UK, recorded 88,311 cases. 

The UK has reported an increase of 12.5% in the number of new Covid cases in the past week, averaging at just under 40,000 per day. The number of Covid cases in France has increased by 37% in the past week, with an average of 9,606 cases per day

Mr Johnson said that a booster dose was the best way to avoid re-introducing stricter Covid measures in the country. 

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Is French health pass immediately updated after Covid booster jab?

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