Children and adults who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus will not have to quarantine on their return from amber list countries to England from July 19.
Airlines welcomed the plans as a positive step to open up foreign holidays after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made the announcement to MPs on Thursday.
Holidaymakers from the UK who have received two jabs from the NHS will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days on their return to England from destinations on the amber list from that point.
Mr Shapps said under-18s will also be exempted from the requirement and that the guidance not to travel to countries on the amber list will be lifted by July 19, when the majority of restrictions are expected to be eased in England.
He said people returning from holidays from amber destinations, including France, Spain and Portugal, will still be required to take a Covid-19 test three days before returning.
They will also have to take a test on or before the second day of their return, but will be exempted from the day eight test.
He told the Commons: “In essence, this means that for fully vaccinated travellers the requirements for green and amber list countries are the same.”
In advance of the quarantine changes, the Foreign Office said it was no longer advising against “all but essential travel” to countries including France, Spain and Greece.
Airlines welcomed the changes, which the Transport Secretary said “may differ” in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: “This is excellent news that will give a much-needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad.”
While the announcement is for UK residents only, Mr Shapps said ministers are “working to extend our approach to vaccinated passengers from important markets of holiday destinations later this summer, such as the United States and the EU”.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, said: “We have always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and now millions will finally be able to reunite with family and loved ones abroad or take that long-awaited trip this summer.
“But with unnecessary testing staying in place, more needs to be done. We do not want to see a return to flying being a preserve of the rich, and expensive testing could sadly make travel out of reach for some this summer.”
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle welcomed the “common sense approach”, but said “there is more work to do”.
“While the quarantine requirement for amber countries is being lifted for fully vaccinated UK travellers, the Government needs to quickly extend this to all vaccinated travellers, agree a reciprocal deal with the US, add more countries to the green list and reduce the need for unnecessary, expensive tests,” he added.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the Airlines UK industry body, welcomed the announcement as a “positive move towards the genuine reopening” for the ailing sector.
“The summer season essentially starts here,” he added.
Among the technicalities for the move as it stands is that the exemption will only apply to those who have received their vaccines from the NHS.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It does need to be a vaccine administered through the NHS rollout so you would need to have received your vaccine through the NHS rather than in a different country.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson continued to defend his plan to delay the lifting of the self-isolation requirement for Covid contacts who have received both jabs until August 16.
With this coming a month after most of the remaining restrictions are expected to be lifted, there are concerns that vast numbers of people could be forced into quarantine.
During a visit to energy company Bulb’s central London headquarters, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: “I know how frustrated people are about this and I know that people are obviously fed up with Covid restrictions.
“What we want to do is just keep going for a little bit longer so that we can get even more vaccinations into people’s arms, give ourselves even more protection.
“But as the Health Secretary has said, we are moving now from self-isolation, from quarantine approach, to test and release approach.
“The day is not too far off.”
The latest data showed:
– As of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 32,551 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.
– A further 35 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total by that measure to 128,336.
– Some 45,601,445 people had received a first dose of vaccine – a rise of 86,953 on the previous day – with 34,198,779 of them having had both jabs, an increase of 171,477.