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COVID-19: U.K bans foreign travel until at least May 17

  • Calls for vaccine passports but they are not mentioned at all in PM’s roadmap 
  • But there will be a review of how ‘covid status certification’ could be used  

By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter For Mailonline, 22 February 2021

Foreign travel for leisure and holidays will be banned until at least May 17, Boris Johnson revealed Monday.

The Prime Minister’s diktat will cause more pain for holidaymakers as well as airlines and holiday companies who have lost billions and cut thousands of jobs since the start of the pandemic a year ago. 

Mr Johnson’s roadmap, published today, says foreign holidays will not be allowed for at least another 12 weeks with scant detail on how the final decision to open up air travel will be made.

The Government has said a final decision on when international travel can restart will be made before a review is completed by the Department for Transport after Easter, causing yet more uncertainty for those dreaming of going and the ailing aviation industry.

‘The Global Travel Taskforce will report on April 12 with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as possible while still managing the risk from imported cases and Variants of Concern. Following that, the Government will determine when international travel should resume, which will be no earlier than May 17’, the report says. 

It adds: ‘The decision on when international travel can resume will be dependent on the global and domestic epidemiological picture, the prevalence and location of any Variants of Concern, the progress of vaccine rollouts here and abroad, and what more the Government has learned about the efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths’. 

Experts have said that if restrictions run into the summer then it will cost the economy around £18billion with airlines saying they need weeks or even months advance warning to ensure they are ready to start flying again.

There are also growing calls in the industry for vaccine passports – but there is no mention of them in relation to foreign travel in Mr Johnson’s roadmap. But there will be a review of ‘potential uses to enable access to settings’ with the conclusions published before the beginning of stage 4 of the plan, which begins on June 21.

Vaccine passports that would allow foreign holidays are ‘feasible’ but would require set standards across countries, scientists have said.

More data are needed on the effectiveness of Covid vaccines and on the duration of immunity to establish how long a passport might be valid, they added.

A report from the Royal Society called for a ‘broader discussion’ about the document, including the need for legal and ethical standards and data privacy.

Yesterday Mr Johnson was warned that failing to reopen international travel by the summer would blow an £18billion hole in the economy.

The prime minister has been facing growing pressure to include international travel in his roadmap for easing lockdown, due to be published today, Monday.

On Thursday, the bosses of some of Britain’s biggest airlines and package holiday firms urged Mr Johnson to have a ‘can-do’ attitude to reopening travel by summer or face tens of thousands more jobs being destroyed.

And a study by a group of cross-party MPs lays bare the scale of the potential hammer blow if current restrictions continue over the summer months, saying it would be ‘beyond devastating’.

The figures project the hit to inbound tourism, integral to the recovery of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and tourist destinations, would be at least £7.5billion.

And for outbound travel, which generated around £37.1billion for the UK economy in 2019, the hit would be at least £10.5billion.

The figures, compiled by Parliament’s Future of Aviation group, relate to the potential hit for June, July and August this year.

They are based on the amounts inbound and outbound travel were worth to the UK economy for these months in 2019 and the impact if current historically low passenger numbers continue over the summer.

Tory MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said: ‘Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest 12 months in their history and have been devastated by a collapse in passenger numbers and delays to the promised recovery package.

‘These figures lay bare the brutal reality that without further financial support and a clear pathway out of the restrictions, these industries who are already running on empty will be left in a battle for survival.

‘The pandemic has been disastrous for our aviation, travel and tourism sectors and the consequences of a lost summer season will be beyond devastating not only to the businesses involved, but their employees, their communities and the UK economy as a whole.

‘That is why it is so vital that the Government meets this challenge through a clear roadmap out of the restrictions and brings forward a serious and significant package of support that protects these essential industries for the challenging months ahead.’Tory MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said: 'Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest 12 months in their history'+3

Tory MP Henry Smith, chair of the Future of Aviation group, said: ‘Our aviation, travel and tourism industries have faced the hardest 12 months in their history’

Joss Croft, CEO of UKInbound, a trade body of 400 businesses, called for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend furlough and business rates relief as long as travel restrictions are in place to keep them afloat or face hundreds of firms being wiped out.

The travel industry has been ravaged by the pandemic, with air passenger numbers plummeting by around 90 per cent by the end of last year.

A raft of new measures in recent weeks, including pre-departure testing, quarantine hotels and the scrapping of ‘travel corridors’, has compounded the crisis and heightened fears for the future of the industry. 

Travel chiefs are concerned it may not be enough to give the sector the time it needs to prepare if holidays are to go ahead in the coming months and to create enough confidence for would-be holiday-makers to book.

They want Mr Johnson to harness the success of the vaccine roll-out and indicate when travel restrictions can be expected to start being lifted.

Steve Heapy, CEO of, said: ‘It takes us a number of weeks to go from no activity to providing flights and holidays for our customers.

‘We need to make sure pilots, people in safety roles are trained, we’ve got to recruit people for the summer and it takes a lot of organisation for us to operate and not just operate in any way, but operate safely.

‘It’s not like getting in your car after you’ve not driven it for a few weeks and just driving off. There are a lot of things that need to happen. We need certainty.’

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: ‘We believe travel can be safely re-started through a risk-based phased easing of border restrictions.

‘We need to be planning forward, it can take weeks and months to get operations fully up and running safely and consumers need confidence to be able to book.

‘People want to know when they can look forward to being re-united with their families, re-establishing vital business links and going on a well-deserved family holiday.’

On Friday, the Save Future Travel Coalition – made up of 12 leading travel trade organisations – wrote to Mr Johnson urging him to include a blueprint for reopening travel in his roadmap.

It called for the introduction of ‘vaccine passports’ so restrictions can be relaxed for travellers who have been inoculated.

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