Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States and the European Union will be allowed to enter England and Scotland without quarantining upon arrival starting Aug. 2, the British authorities said on Wednesday as they sought to attract tourists after months of restrictions.
“We’re helping reunite people living in the U.S. and European countries with their family and friends in U.K.,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.
Last week, the British government relaxed all but a handful of restrictions in England despite a major surge in infections. Cases have since declined, surprising experts and government officials who had expected them to keep rising.
The government has been criticized for discriminating between travelers who were vaccinated in Britain and those who were inoculated elsewhere, without any medical justification. Vaccinated people arriving in England from most “amber list” countries, those with moderately high transmission, have been required to self-isolate — unless they received their shots in Britain.
As of next Monday, the rules will apply equally to all travelers from the United States, the European Union, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland who have been fully vaccinated with shots authorized by either American or European drug regulators, Mr. Shapps said. It is unclear how British authorities will verify travelers’ vaccination status if they got their shots elsewhere.
He said travelers will still need a negative coronavirus test before a trip, and will still have to take a PCR test after reaching England. It remains unclear whether the pre-departure test would be have to be for the virus, itself or for antibodies.
The tourism industry had long advocated the policy change. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier on Wednesday that he wanted American travelers to come to England “freely.” The national government made the change for England, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland set their own policies. The Scottish government quickly followed London’s lead.
Most European countries have opened to American tourists after the European Union recommended lifting a ban on nonessential travel last month. Yet E.U. and British residents are still mostly banned from traveling to the United States, unless they are U.S. citizens.
The Biden administration said on Monday that it would continue to restrict the entry of Europeans and others into the United States, citing concerns that infected travelers may contribute to further spread of the contagious Delta variant. The State Department is advising American travelers not to go to Britain, Spain or Portugal, and to reconsider travel to other parts of Western Europe.
Few experts are willing to draw definitive conclusions from the overall decline in cases in Britain over the past week, which could reflect transient factors like the school summer break, the end of the European soccer championships or fewer people getting tested.
But if the trend is sustained, it raises a tantalizing prospect that Mr. Johnson may have bet correctly that the country could withstand a return to normalcy, even with the Delta variant circulating widely.
Mr. Shapps also said on Twitter that international cruises would resume, and that the government would offer flexible testing programs to key workers, although he did not provide details.
Mark Landler contributed reporting.