The UK hinted on Monday that it plans to allow Britons to resume foreign travel to selected countries in mid-May.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not give a timeline for changes to UK international travel. But he said a task force would release details of the government’s plan later this week, with a finalized announcement sometime before May 17th.
“We hope we can continue on May 17,” Johnson said. “But we do not want to see the virus reported in this country because of the waves in other parts of the world.”
It is currently illegal for Britons to travel abroad for holidays. The current rules for overseas travel are set to remain in force at least on May 17th.
“We will give [the aviation sector] as much notice as we can, ”Johnson said. “We want to make the country fly again.”
News media reports have cited government sources as planning for a “traffic light” system for nations based on their levels of infection and vaccination. The new system is likely to favor destinations that are success stories in public health.
If true, the UK government would put countries that meet certain criteria, such as high levels of vaccinations, on a “green list” that would allow largely unlimited leisure and business travel.
Johnson did not specify these plans and no official has yet mentioned the locations for any list. But based on the criteria suggested in the news reports, it seemed possible for officials to add the US, UAE, Israel and Australia to the so-called “green list”.
According to reported plans, the UK will continue to restrict international travel to countries that have stalled on public health measures such as vaccinations.
Some of the British’s most visited European foreign destinations, such as France, Italy and Spain, risk being included in the “yellow” or “red” lists because they are struggling with pandemic content. The UK government may require the British to be tested upon their return from holiday, or may restrict almost all travel.
This would be bad news for favorite holiday destinations in the UK, such as France, Italy and Spain, which are struggling to tame the virus. The guide for the new system will soon be published in a UK government site.
The UK government said it would allow the UK’s overnight stay overnight again from 12 April.
Johnson also said the UK would test “vaccine passports”, or “Covid status certification”, for large rallies with several testing events, such as getting 20,000 visitors to London’s Wembley Stadium for an event in between of May.
For international travel, Johnson said Monday that certification would be something to look at but that there are no immediate plans.
“A world in which we continue to have evidence is not very difficult,” Johnson said. “We have to be very careful to get there. There is nothing in the data I can see today that could cause us to deviate from the road map.”
Britain has given coronavirus shots to more than half of its adult population.
The UK needs to learn from Israel and Chile about vaccine use and border controls, said Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser.
“We hope to make this map of irreversible freedom,” Johnson said.
Photo credit: A view of Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5C, from the airfield in May 2011. David Dyson / Heathrow Airports Ltd.
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