Boris Johnson confirms traffic light system but refuses to say if foreign holidays will restart on May 17

BORIS Johnson has refused to say if foreign holidays will restart on May 17 as the traffic light system was confirmed today.

Different countries are set to be graded green, amber or red according to their vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity.

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Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk,

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Travel destinations will be ranked green, amber or red according to virus risk,Credit: EPA
The PM refused to confirm whether holidays can commence on May 17

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The PM refused to confirm whether holidays can commence on May 17Credit: PA

But the PM today refused to say whether Brits will be allowed to jet off on holiday from May 17 in a massive blow for the industry.

It came as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned that ditching social distancing and masks when lockdown ends could lead to an overwhelming “summer wave” of Covid.

The gloomy assessment casts doubt over whether England will be able to return to normality with a “Big Bang” on June 21.

Instead, there are growing signs families will have to get used to a “new normal” of twice-weekly Covid tests, vaccine passports, distancing and masks well into the future.

The Prime Minister, in a sombre message during his No10 press conference, tried to calm growing fears about lasting restrictions and dodged crunch questions over how long the interventions will be needed.

He said: “I think a great deal depends on the continuing success of the vaccine roll-out and us continuing to satisfy the four tests.

‘SOME NORMALITY’

“If things continue to go well, I do think for many people life will begin to get back to at least some normality.”

Mr Johnson insisted he is desperate to “get the country flying again” but said families should wait before booking a foreign getaway.

He added: “We are hopeful we can get going from May 17, but I do not wish to underestimate the difficulty we are seeing in some destinations people might want to go to.

“We don’t want to see the virus being reimported from abroad.”

He promised to announce if foreign summer hols are back on “well before” May 17 to give airlines time to set up.

But a key government report giving an update on social distancing said ministers are looking at “whether existing rules could be relaxed in different settings”.

Social distancing may be ditched only in pubs and restaurants that sign up to a vaccination passport scheme, the paper also warned.

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The anticipated government update on summer holidays confirmed that a traffic-light system will be brought in which carves the world up into red, amber and green zones.

Only holidaymakers heading to green countries with good vaccine roll-outs and low Covid rates will be allowed to dodge quarantine.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned coronavirus is not “going to magically disappear”.

Alongside that sombre message came Sage’s three conclusions:

  • Going back to pre-pandemic life if restrictions end on June 21 could see hospital admissions and deaths soar higher than before
  • If people do not distance and wear masks, hospital admissions could hit 25,000 by the end of August
  • A “significant” change to pre-pandemic behaviour — including ongoing social distancing, masks and hand-washing — will still see a third wave this summer but with cases only “in the low thousands”.

The Sage scientists did not see a scenario with no third wave. But it did not recommend against reopening of shops, pubs and restaurants.

TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM

International travel is currently banned except for a handful of permitted reasons.

The Global Travel Taskforce will publish its report, setting out more details on the traffic light system, later this week.

People heading to low-risk “green” countries will not need to isolate on return to the UK, but they will need to take Covid tests before and after they arrive home.

Travellers arriving into the UK from “amber list” countries will have to self-isolate at home and take Covid tests pre-departure and on Day 2 and 8 after they arrive.

It has been suggested that vaccinated travellers may be able to avoid certain restrictions, but that has not been confirmed.

Travellers from “red list” countries will have to isolate in a quarantine hotel for 11 days at a cost of £1,750, as well as taking Covid tests pre-departure and on Day 2 and 8 after they arrive.

Currently people arriving in the UK from abroad are required to self-isolate for 10 days.

Travel traffic light system

GREEN: Anyone returning from these countries must take a pre-flight Covid test at their own cost, then take a further test within days of landing to check for new strains;

AMBER: Like green but those entering the UK must isolate at home for ten days after arrival. They can get out after five days with a negative test paid for privately;

RED: Arrivals must isolate on their return in an authorised hotel at their own cost — as they do currently.

The government urged people not to book summer holidays, saying: “It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential
international travel resumes.

“These decisions will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time, which we cannot predict now.”

While certain countries will be placed on the green, amber and red lists at the relaunch of foreign travel, the government has confirmed that destinations will be moved into different categories as new Covid date emerges over the course of the summer.

This could result in similar scenes to last summer, when holidaymakers were left scrambling for flights back to the UK as countries were added to the quarantine list with just 24 hours notice.

Vaccinated travellers who head to amber countries, likely to be holiday destinations like Spain and Greece, may be able to skip quarantine.

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Vaccinated travellers who head to amber countries, likely to be holiday destinations like Spain and Greece, may be able to skip quarantine.Credit: Alamy

Meanwhile, a single-shot Covid jab that could save foreign holidays for youngsters was last night hailed as “a game changer” by travel bosses.

The one-dose Janssen jab is set to be available by July for 18 to 30-year-olds — so they could be off to party islands like Ibiza within months.

Health minister Ed Argar said the Prime Minister was trying to give “as much foresight and as few surprises as possible” about the possibility of international travel this year during his press conference today.

Pressed on whether Europe was likely to be on the “caution list” of destinations due to a surge in cases, the minister replied: “We are seeing many of our friends in Europe seeing an increase in infections.

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“That is one of the reasons why we have to be very careful, that as we see an increase across the world in infections that we get this right.

“Because one of the things we don’t want to see – and just as the vaccination programme is working so well – is getting new variants or risking new variants getting imported into this country.”

He said he’ll be spending his holidays “at home in sunny Leicestershire.”

The government has also announced it will allow a number of people to attend public events such as football matches from this month in trials of a virus certification system.

But it has not made clear whether it will issue “virus passports” for international travel, an idea backed by many tourism-dependent countries and airlines but opposed by more than 70 MPs.

The UK has already given out more than 31 million first vaccine doses and over 5 million second doses.

The rollout has far outstripped popular holiday destinations such as France.

This has boosted the public mood after more than 126,000 people died from the virus in the United Kingdom, the highest toll in Europe.

Long wait isn’t over

By Lisa Minot, Travel Editor

WELL, that was a bit of an anti-climax for lockdown-weary Brits hoping to escape.

After weeks of promising more detail for when we can plan our summer holidays abroad, the news was: just wait.

Yes, the resumption of domestic travel from April 12 is very welcome.

And a huge boost to our battered local tourist industry as families can now take a break together in self-contained accommodation.

But we have to wait, yet again, to discover where we’ll be able to fly this summer and what restrictions will be in place.

For now, we’ll just have to be patient.

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