U.S. State Department Eases Travel Advisories for UK, Israel

U.S. State Department Eases Travel Advisories for UK, Israel

The U.S. State Department eased travel warnings for the United Kingdom and Israel just weeks after raising both countries — and much of the world — to its highest travel advisory classification.

The UK, which has begun lifting its strict lockdown restrictions and plans to reopen to some international travel on May 17, is now classified under “Level 3: Reconsider Travel.” Currently, most travel from the UK remains prohibited, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also classifies the country as a Level 3.

While the U.S. has downgraded Britain’s advisory level, the UK has not included America on its initial “green” country list, which would allow travelers to take a COVID-19 test before coming and within two days of arriving, skipping quarantine. Rather, the U.S. is considered an “amber” country, which requires travelers to get tested before arrival, and quarantine for at least five days before getting tested again several times.

The decision to downgrade the UK’s travel advisory level comes as at least 53.1% of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 26.7% are fully vaccinated, according to Reuters, which is tracking the vaccine rollout.

“The return of transatlantic flying would not only have a significantly positive impact on our respective economies but will also reunite those who have been separated from their loved ones for over a year,” a coalition of U.S. and European travel groups, including from Airlines for America and Virgin Atlantic, wrote in a letter last week, Reuters reported.

In addition to the UK, the State Department also downgraded Israel’s travel warning level to “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution.” It was the second time Israel’s level had been reduced in recent weeks, the wire service noted.

The country, which has one of the world’s most successful vaccination programs, plans to begin welcoming vaccinated tourists later this month. To start, Israel will allow vaccinated group tours (like the popular Birthright program) before eventually expanding to individual tourists.

So far, at least 59.9% of Israelis have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 56.2% are considered fully vaccinated, Reuters noted.

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100 fake Covid tests are discovered every day by border officials

100 fake Covid tests are discovered every day by border officials

UK border staff discover 100 fake Covid test certificates every day

Border officers are spotting about 100 fake Covid test certificates at the border every day in what has been called a “very leaky system” by Professor Deenan Pillay, a member of the Independent SAGE group of scientists.

MPs have been told that the fake documents showing a recent negative test result are “very easy” to forge. What’s more, there is no way to tell how many more fake documents are being missed.

According to Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents border immigration and customs staff in the UK, around 20,000 people are entering the country every day. Most of them are truckers.

She told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Covid that “its predominantly taken on trust” and that there is “little to no” evidence on how well people are adhering to quarantine rules.

“‘We trust people when they say they have not been in a red list country in the last 10 days, we trust people when they say that they are going to quarantine. The whole thing is based on an assumption that people will do the right thing.”

The legal requirements to enter England is proof of a negative test taken three days before departure. The negative test can be either a printed document, a text or an email.

As the documents are low tech, they are ripe for forgery. In effect, there is no full-proof way of identifying bogus negative test certificates.

Layla Moran MP, Chair of the APPG on Coronavirus, wants the Government to “actively discourage foreign travel”. She said:

“The stark evidence we heard today exposed how current border checks are totally inadequate to stop Covid cases entering the UK, including dangerous variants.

“The government must act now to stop our airports becoming breeding grounds for the virus. That means reducing overcrowding in arrival halls, effectively separating passengers arriving from red list countries and carrying out thorough checks to root out fake documentation and ensure people comply with the rules.”

Though border staff are successfully spotting fake documents which obviously look bogus, an unknown number of good quality forgeries could be getting through. For instance, if the certificate is provided in a foreign language, border officials could easily miss spelling mistakes.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“Border Force is checking that every passenger has complied with current health measures when arriving at the border.

“Providing falsified documents is against the law. Border Force officers are trained to detect falsified and counterfeit documents and have the right to refuse entry and issue £500 fine to any visitor they believe has travelled to the UK using fraudulent covid test certificates.

“Individuals who fail to comply with their legal duty to quarantine at home following international travel can be fined £1,000, increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offences.”