Should travel only be allowed if you've had the vaccine?

Oliver Smith
·7 min read
coronavirus health passport - getty
coronavirus health passport - getty

Saga Holidays has announced that they will make the Covid-19 vaccination a mandatory requirement for all customers travelling with them in 2021.

Though they are the first UK cruise line and tour operator to do this, it looks like they may not be the last. Two of our writers debate the case for and against vaccine requirements in order for people to be able to travel this year.

‘Turning away perfectly healthy people amounts to discrimination’

Why vaccines should never be mandatory

Oliver Smith

Thank heavens for the vaccine. If it can cut deaths from Covid and end the recurring nightmare of lockdown, we should inject the bloody thing into every willing adult as fast as is humanly possible.

We should also be lifting restrictions so that those who have had the jab can travel freely. Holidays are one of those wonderful things that make life worth living, and after so long tethered to our homes, heaven knows we all need one. Inoculated Britons should be free to come and go without needing to take a test or quarantine on their return – otherwise, what’s the point?

What we cannot do, however, is punish people who haven’t yet been vaccinated – or, for whatever reason, be it medical or personal, do not intend to. Travel is a basic human right, and any coercion when it comes to pharmaceutical procedures must be resisted at all costs.

seychelles - getty
seychelles - getty

While the rollout of the vaccine is ongoing, I would support a requirement for unvaccinated holidaymakers to take a test before they return to British soil. Perhaps, if their holiday destination is considered particularly high risk, a short quarantine period and a follow-up test would be wise. Obviously we cannot control the policies of other countries, who may decide to refuse unprotected arrivals, but travel beyond our shores must still be an option.

Furthermore, Saga Cruises, which this week said it would only welcome vaccinated holidaymakers when it relaunches in May, must be encouraged to rethink its policy – or be told by the Government, in no uncertain terms, to do so. I would support a pre-cruise testing requirement for those who haven’t had the jab, but turning away perfectly healthy people amounts to discrimination.

Will other travel companies follow suit? I think it will be a tempting option for cruise lines, which seem uniquely susceptible to Covid outbreaks and are a popular option for senior travellers, but I suspect airlines and tour operators will simply enforce the policy of the destination they’re visiting.

Once every adult in Britain has been offered a vaccine, I see no reason to persist with any of the restrictions currently in place, for travel or otherwise. We’ll need to keep a close eye on new variants, of course, but once everyone who wants a vaccine has had one, what sense is there in stopping life returning to normal? The only people at risk will be those who haven’t had the vaccine, and that is their choice.

This logic appears to be finding favour in the Seychelles, which has just become the first country in the world to welcome all vaccinated travellers. However, once it has inoculated its own population (which, thanks to its small size and a donation of doses from the UAE, shouldn’t take long) any traveller from anywhere in the world will be welcome. It’s the sort of sensible policy that’s sure to lift your spirits – and get you searching for overwater villas.

‘How wonderful to come across a Covid ruling that makes sense’

Why a vaccine policy like Saga’s should be applauded

Jane Archer

If I had one on, I’d doff my cap to the boss of Saga Cruises for his decision to allow passengers on its ships only if they have had the full Covid-19 vaccine. That means two jabs and at least 14 days after the second lot of jollop so it can all take effect.

After months of government U-turns and lockdowns that have defied logic, how wonderful to come across a Covid ruling that makes sense. Saga sells cruises and holidays (for which the full vaccine is also required) exclusively to the over-50s. Many of its customers are in their 70s or older so they are a prime target for Covid.

If Saga wants them back travelling – and why wouldn’t it given it has two classy ships sitting idle (one so new it hasn’t seen any passengers yet), a smart river ship launching this year and a desperate need, like all travel companies, to make money after months of lockdowns and tiers – it has to make sure not only that they are safe, but that they feel safe too.

And never mind the oldies. I expect to see other cruise lines as well as airlines and travel companies follow suit (the boss of Australia’s national airline Qantas has already intimated they will) so they can reassure the millions of people of all ages who have been scared witless by the virus.

Naturally the decision has stirred up the anti-vax and not-fair brigade. Civil liberties, living in a dictatorship, forcing me to have a jab. Unfair, unfair, unfair.

greek islands - getty
greek islands - getty

But no one is forcing anyone to do anything, be it have a jab, go on a cruise or fly to Australia. If you don’t want a jab, that’s fine. Stay home and fume. For my money, the Greek Isles vs sticking to unwarranted principles? It’s a no-brainer.

In the 1980s, I wanted to go to Sri Lanka and the Gambia so had to get inoculated against cholera and yellow fever. The jabs were noted in a little booklet – a health passport if you will - that I had to take with me. It’s the same process today.

I have no more fear of getting Covid now than I did back then of picking up cholera or yellow fever, but if I must have the jab so I can live my life and start to travel again, I say bring it on.

The government’s plan is to inject all over 50s, healthcare workers and people with pre-existing medical conditions by the spring, which we’re told means almost 99% of those most at risk of dying from Covid.

True, that means a lot of under-50s (a cohort barely affected by this virus) will be unable to travel if companies – and indeed countries - insist customers are fully vaccinated. But we are not allowed to travel anyway at the moment and I’m confident much will have changed by spring.

Warmer days, the at-risk protected and labs making so much vaccine that those who can’t wait for a free jab can buy one. Unfair? Maybe. But I had to pay for those inoculations back in the ’80s and I was all ready to splash out on a PCR test for a trip to Barbados last month that sadly hit the buffers. I’d just be paying for a jab instead. Two questions do remain unanswered, namely how long Saga (and any that follow in its footsteps) will insist on vaccines and what proof they’ll want to show people have been properly jabbed.

My manually-stamped health passport might be too simple in this everything-has-to-be-online world – and too easy to fake (although I can’t see Saganauts going on line to find bogus documents). And after the test and trace fiasco I have no faith in the NHS. We need a IT-savvy teenager to create an easy-to-work scheme whereby the vaccine is a passport to getting our lives back. I defy anyone to object to that.

Should the Covid-19 vaccination become mandatory for travellers? Let us know in the comment section below. The best responses will be added to this article.