Hopes of the United States and the United Kingdom agreeing to open air corridors before the end of the summer are quickly fading, and the latest signs indicate Coronavirus cases are increasing In the UK, millions of people’s travel plans are in trouble.
Officials involved in the US-UK travel corridor negotiations that began last week said they believe it is increasingly unlikely that they will reach a conclusion at the end of next month, as some initially expected.
Instead, they said that the combination of the surge in cases of the British Delta variant, the complexity of the US political system, and the uncertainty of the AstraZeneca vaccine status will extend the negotiations to August or even September.
The anticipated delay in the US-British air corridor is the latest in a series of difficulties faced by Britons planning to travel abroad this summer.
On Monday, Spain, Portugal, Malta and Hong Kong all announced Stricter restrictions Passengers arriving from the UK.
London officials had hoped that they could reach an outline of an agreement to reopen travel between the United States and Britain before the July 4th Independence Day celebrations. But insiders in the British government now believe that this may prove impossible.
A British official who is familiar with negotiations on establishing a corridor with the United States said: “This will not happen anytime soon. We think July is the first thing we might be able to put in place, but now it looks more like September.”
Another person familiar with the discussion said that the United Kingdom has pushed for an agreement far more than the United States.
“The Biden administration is not in a hurry… the possibility of anything happening before August now seems very small,” the person added.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year, non-Americans have been banned from traveling to the United States from the United Kingdom unless they are green card holders, immediate family members of U.S. citizens or can apply for a special exemption.
The ban was imposed by the then U.S. President Donald Trump and re-implemented by his successor Joe Biden. The United Kingdom allows anyone to enter from the United States, but must be quarantined for at least five days afterwards.
British officials have been trying to persuade American officials to lift the restrictions.
They had hoped to make progress after Biden this month Agree to set up A working group of American and British officials discussed how to best restart travel.
The UK reported 22,868 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours on Monday. This level was last recorded in January. However, since more than 60% of adults are fully vaccinated, the mortality rate is still very low.
Due to how many departments of the US government have a say in the travel rules related to the coronavirus, including the Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department and the White House, the final determination of the US-UK travel corridor has become more complicated.
The status of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the United States further complicates the issue. The Anglo-Swiss pharmaceutical company has not yet applied for authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Once it does, it is likely to apply for a full legal license instead of a temporary emergency authorization-this process may take several months to complete.
US officials have not yet indicated whether they intend to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers differently.
But British diplomats worry that if they do, British people who receive AstraZeneca injections may find themselves facing stricter restrictions than those who receive US-approved vaccines.
A British diplomat said: “AstraZeneca proved a real problem. If the United States does not recognize it, it means that if we agree to the new corridor, millions of British people will not be eligible to travel.”
The White House stated that the meeting on the U.S.-British travel corridor was “active and ongoing.”
A spokesman for the British government stated that the US-UK working group was established to “help restart travel between the UK and the US as soon as possible.”
The spokesperson added: “Discussions between the working groups are ongoing to ensure that the United Kingdom and the United States closely share ideas and expertise in future international travel policies.” AstraZeneca declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Jim Pickard, Donato Paolo Mancini and Philip Georgiadis