‘We just want to get to UK to see relatives for first time in two years with reciprocal treatment’ – Claire Lewis
As Finland became the latest European Union nation to recognise the NHS app as proof of vaccination for travel, British expatriates immunised abroad have expressed frustration with delays by the UK government in recognising foreign jabs.
On 8 July, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced that people who had completed a course of NHS vaccinations would not need to self-isolate on return from middle-risk countries from 19 July – covering a large majority of key nations, including the US, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Unlike many other nations, the UK currently refuses to accept proof of vaccination abroad as an alternative to self-isolation. That decision appears to have ended any prospects for a significant inbound tourism for the rest of the summer, as well as preventing foreign citizens from visiting family in the UK.
British expatriates abroad are particularly furious, saying there is no clarity about how and when they may be able return to the UK without quarantining.
Ministers had said work was in progress on accepting foreign vaccinations and that an announcement would be made by the end of last week.
But all that happened was that the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, made a statement to the last sitting of Commons on Thursday on arrangements for British citizens resident abroad.
He said: “By the end of this month, UK nationals who have been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, go through what vaccine they have had, and have it registered with the NHS that they have been vaccinated.”
“The reason for the conversation with the GP is to make sure that whatever vaccine they have had is approved in the United Kingdom.”
British expatriates do not generally have GPs in the UK, with the NHS warning anyone wanting to live abroad that they must notify their doctor so they can be taken off the register.
One British man living abroad said: “Plenty of us haven’t officially left and still have doctors. We often see them when we return home. But I really don’t know how I’m supposed to get through on the phone from here and discuss my German-administered AZ with them.”
From Spain, Sarah Price tweeted: “Not to even give an indication on when EU-vaccinated travellers can enter without having to quarantine is not helpful.
“As a Brit living in Spain I am desperate to see family without the constraints of quarantine.”
Claire Lewis tweeted: “This is driving us Brits living in EU with the vaccination certificate crazy. We watch doubly vaccinated Brit tourists coming to and fro all over Europe with relative ease.
“We just want to get to UK to see relatives for first time in two years with reciprocal treatment.”
Kristen Covo wrote: “Ridiculous that we won’t allow entry to anyone who has been vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine. Or that citizens cannot return home because they were not vaccinated by the NHS. It is just more ludicrous excuses that need to end.”
Ministers from France and Italy have written to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, pleading for their fully vaccinated citizens to be allowed to avoid quarantine.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We recognise there are a large variety of Covid-19 vaccines being administered worldwide and work is ongoing to determine which non-UK vaccines and certification solutions we might be confident to recognise.”
Meanwhile the UK’s inbound travel industry, which in 2019 attracted 41 million people spending £28bn, has effectively written off the summer, with no indication when vaccinated foreign visitors might be allowed to skip quarantine and take a British holiday.