In a move welcomed by London's art fairs, the UK government has today waived the mandatory quarantine on arrival in England for visitors who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in the US and Europe.
From 4am on 2 August, visitors who are covered by vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the USA's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Swiss vaccination programme will not have to quarantine (for between five to ten days) or take a day eight test on arrival. They will, however, still have to do a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two (or before) after they arrive in England. Separate rules will apply for those travelling from France.
The decision has been welcomed by Michael Benson, the director of the Photo London fair which is due to take place from 9 to 12 September at Somerset House after being forced to cancel the 2020 physical edition due to the pandemic. Speaking earlier this week, Benson was concerned about the quarantine which would have meant hefty additional accommodation costs for exhibitors, an extra expense that was causing some galleries to question whether they would take part in the fair at all.
Today, Benson, who had been lobbying the Cabinet Office, DCMS and City Hall, tells The Art Newspaper: "It’s good to see that the government has finally understood the absurdity of their policy regarding fully vaccinated visitors from the US and the EU. I know they aren’t the brightest buttons in the box but, really, it’s taken them far too long to understand the damage they have done and the problems they have caused. In our case this comes just in time to prevent real difficulties."
Benson adds: "Although we have lost a few exhibitors (and therefore revenue) as a result of this policy we now have a little bit of time to repair the damage and can look forward to a strong international fair attended by a good number collectors from the EU and US."
Frieze, which runs two fairs in London in October, declined to comment.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says today's decision is "another important step forward" in reopening international travel and boosting UK businesses. However, these days nothing is certain and these measures "will be kept under review and be guided by the latest data," a government statement says.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, tells The Art Newspaper: “The Mayor believes that we all want to be able to travel freely again, and the return of more travellers from the EU and the US would be a boost from London’s economy, alongside people once again being able to see loved ones based abroad. Last year, consumer spending in central London by overseas tourists fell by a huge £7.4bn."
The situation remains difficult, however, for galleries wishing to travel to the US, for example for The Armory Show in New York in September. Non-US citizens arriving from the UK, EU, China, India and Brazil are still barred from entering the country.
Khan's spokesperson adds: “Londoners would also expect the system to be reciprocal if people from the US and other countries are once again allowed to travel into the UK.