Hopes fade for the US-UK travel corridor before the end of summer

Hopes are fading fast that the US and UK will agree to open air corridors before the end of summer, in the latest sign of that Corona virus cases are on the rise In Britain, millions of people’s travel plans are bogged down.

Officials involved in talks about the US-UK travel corridor, which began last week, said they believe it is increasingly unlikely they will reach a conclusion by the end of next month, as some originally expected.

Instead, they said, a combination of a sudden rise in variable delta cases in the UK, the complexities of the US political system, and uncertainty over the status of the AstraZeneca vaccine was due to extend talks into August and into September.

The expected slippage in the agreement on an air corridor between the United States and the United Kingdom is the latest in a string of difficulties facing Britons planning to travel abroad this summer.

Spain, Portugal, Malta and Hong Kong announced on Monday stricter restrictions For travelers from the United Kingdom.

Officials in London had hoped they would have outlined an agreement to reopen travel between the US and the UK by the time of the Independence Day celebrations on the Fourth of July.

A British official briefed on talks about a corridor with the US said: “It’s not going to happen soon. We thought July was the earliest we might be able to get something, but now it feels like September.”

Another person familiar with the discussions said the UK was pushing for a deal far more than the US.

The Biden administration is in no hurry. . . This person added that the chances of anything happening before August now seem to be nil.

Non-Americans have been banned from traveling from the UK to the US since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last March, unless they are green card holders, the immediate family of a US citizen, or they can apply for a special exemption.

The ban was imposed by then-US President Donald Trump, and his successor, Joe Biden, reimposed it. The UK is allowing anyone to enter from the US, although they must quarantine for at least five days after that.

British officials struggled to persuade their American counterparts to drop the restrictions.

They were hoping they could make headway after Biden this month agreed to stay A working group of US and UK officials to discuss how best to resume travel.

On Monday, the United Kingdom reported 22,868 cases of the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours – a level last recorded in January. But with more than 60 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated, deaths have remained low.

Finalizing the travel corridor between the US and the UK is further complicated by the number of parts of the US government that have a say in coronavirus-related travel rules, including the Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department and the White House.

The case of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the US further complicates matters. The Anglo-Swedish drug company has not yet applied for a license with the FDA, and when it does, it will likely apply for a full statutory license, rather than a temporary emergency permit – a process that can take several months to complete.

US officials have not stated whether they intend to treat vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers differently.

But British diplomats fear that if that happens, Britons who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine could find themselves facing tougher restrictions than those who have received US-approved vaccines.

One British diplomat said: “AstraZeneca has proven to be a real problem. If the US does not admit it, it means that millions of Britons will not be eligible to travel if we agree to a new corridor.”

The White House said meetings around the US-UK travel corridor were “active and ongoing”.

The UK government spokesman said the US-UK working group had been set up to “help relaunch travel between the UK and the US as soon as possible”.

The spokesperson added: “Discussions between the working group are still ongoing to ensure that the UK and US engage in close thinking and experience on future international travel policy.” AstraZeneca declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Jim Pickard, Donato Paolo Mancini and Philip Georgiadis

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