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The EU 'pingdemic': Fully-jabbed Europeans forced to self-isolate in UK

The UK had the highest COVID-19 infection rate in Europe last week.
The UK had the highest COVID-19 infection rate in Europe last week.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
By Lottie Limb

Double-jabbed travellers may still face 10 days self-isolation in the UK, if contacted by the country’s national health service (NHS).

Though quarantine was scrapped for fully-vaccinated EU visitors this summer, the rules around contact tracing have yet to be brought in line.

It means that those who received the same vaccination abroad must respond differently to people vaccinated in the UK if pinged by NHS Test and Trace.

The UK relaxed its rules for Brits back in August, so they no longer need to self-isolate if informed of a close contact with COVID-19 - provided they received their second jab at least 14 days before the encounter.

But despite officially approving a long list of overseas vaccination programmes - and accepting EU Digital Covid Certificates - the UK government’s domestic policy is a different story.

The Department for Transport told European news site The Local, “if a person has been vaccinated abroad they are required to self-isolate if they test positive or have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, even if they have received a vaccine equivalent to those approved by the MHRA for use in the UK.

“Our domestic verification process currently only recognises the vaccination status of individuals who received their vaccine in the UK. We continue to keep this under review.”

PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS
People arriving in England must book a COVID-19 test – to be taken before the end of day 2.PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

UK citizens vaccinated abroad also facing problems

It’s not just European holidaymakers having to factor in the risk of self-isolation. UK residents who were vaccinated abroad are also being caught out, inews reports.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that “residents in England who have been vaccinated in the US, EU, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein or Switzerland will soon be able to access the NHS Covid pass,” but did not say when this might be.

Digital NHS Covid passes are the key way Brits prove their vaccination status, in order to attend events at home or travel abroad.

“Those who received vaccinations in other countries may be contacted by the NHS — or they can contact their GP — to have their health records updated,” the government spokesperson added.

With around 40,000 people testing positive for the virus everyday in the UK - among the highest in Europe - the strict tracing rule leaves both residents and travellers exposed to a high chance of being cooped up.

This could be particularly costly and inconvenient for those forced to extend their stays in hotels or other accommodation.

You can find out more about the rules for travelling to England during the pandemic on the government's webpage here.