CDC Moves the U.K. to High Risk Travel List as Boris Johnson Marks ‘Freedom Day’ in Isolation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for the United Kingdom due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of the virus in the country. 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has struggled to find a balance between public health and protecting the economy. His latest gamble – to lift all restrictions including legal mandates on mask wearing and social distancing while cases are rising – shows where his priorities lie. The so-called “Freedom Day” where the U.K. “learns to live with COVID” was yesterday, July 19. It is therefore too soon to tell if Johnson’s gamble will pay off. Early indications from the stock market were not good and the U.S. travel notice will also do nothing to boost the economy. It is no mere coincidence that CDC moved the U.K. to a higher risk category on the day Johnson lifted restrictions. Other countries may follow suit, alarmed at the lack of precautionary measures as the U.K. is gripped by a surge of the Delta variant.

CDC puts the U.K. in the highest risk category and says U.S. citizens should avoid travel to the United Kingdom. Anyone who must travel from the U.S. to the U.K. should be fully vaccinated before travel but even those travelers face risks, CDC adds. 

Approximately 90% of adults in the U.K. have received a first vaccine dose, and around two thirds have also received their second dose. CDC notes that the risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe symptoms may be lower for those fully vaccinated with an FDA authorized vaccine. Most people in Britain have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, also called Vaxzevria, is not yet approved in the United States because the FDA has asked AstraZeneca to show results from a large-scale trial.

Only last month at the G7 summit, President Biden and Boris Johnson discussed a transatlantic corridor travel arrangement which aimed to make travel safer, healthier and easier between the two countries. Trials have also been taking place between airlines and airports to fast-track vaccinated travelers from the U.S into the U.K. The transatlantic corridor was never announced, perhaps because Biden had run out of negotiating time on his way to Russia, or perhaps because he had reservations over Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.

Johnson himself is currently self-isolating having been a close contact of new Health Secretary Sajid Javid who tested positive for COVID-19 at the weekend. Javid replaced former Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the end of June after the latter was found to be breaking COVID regulations while having an extra-marital affair.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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