The Handbook
The Handbook

Last night’s briefing by Boris and the boffins was largely an upbeat affair, the vaccine programme is going well and they’re working as hoped, meaning the NHS isn’t in danger of being overwhelmed and the next stage of unlockdowning can go ahead. But with all eyes on April 12th, anyone with travel plans or hopes was left with questions.

While the Prime Minister has green-lit plans for hospitality and non-essential retail to open again from Monday, Boris was tight-lipped on the chances of leisure travel returning according to the government’s May 17th timeline. At last night’s briefing he was only able to say that he was “hopeful” while behind-the-scenes rumours in Whitehall are that travel could be delayed.

Fears of importing variants of the virus back into the UK which might hold up or reverse our easing of lockdown appear to be giving ministers pause for thought, but the uncertainty is also making it difficult for the travel industry to plan for the summer, not to mention to families who have endured a year of restrictions and who finally want to celebrate.

The uncertainty is also making it difficult for the travel industry to plan for the summer, not to mention to families who have endured a year of restrictions...

There had been rumours that the Prime Minister would use the briefing to introduce a traffic-light system, with countries varying between red and green to govern how travel between these countries and the UK would work.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to report to ministers soon with a public announcement on Monday, 12th April.

Boris last night did not instil confidence, saying “Obviously we are hopeful that we can get going from 17 May, we are hopeful” but also warned people to be “realistic”.

Which probably means that your South Africa safari booked for 18th May might not be going ahead…

Your South Africa safari booked for 18th May might not be going ahead...

And if it does, international travel will very likely involve covid tests, covid passports and, if you’re unlucky, then covid isolation and covid hotels. All the fun stuff.

What we know so far is that the government is committed to lay out “well before May 17th what we think is reasonable”, according to Boris. This is the date when it is hoped that the current £5,000 fine for unnecessary international travel will be replaced with something approaching normality.

Countries will be scaled depending on their coronavirus rates and the circulation of variants of concern to the government as well as those country’s access to good scientific data and genomic sequencing.

Under the system travellers from green light countries will not be required to isolate, although pre-departure and post-arrival tests, likely at travellers’ own expense, will still be required.

However, countries classed as amber or red will be required to isolate or enter quarantine.

All of which rather leaves this summer’s holiday up in the air. If you’ll excuse the pun…


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