The transport secretary’s remarks came as ministers gave the green light for holidays abroad as early as 17 May — as outlined in Boris Johnson’s roadmap — but made clear the specific date or the locations on the new “green list” would not be officially revealed for another two-three weeks.
Mr Shapps has previously warned individuals in recent months against booking overseas holidays, saying in March it was too early to make plans and that there were still “lots of questions” around how safe travel will be in June amid concerns over variants.
But in marked shift when pressed on Sky News whether people should now be booking overseas holidays, the cabinet minister replied:“I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book summer holidays now — it’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months.”
However, he warned people to be aware of the “risks” and suggested people should wait until the government makes clear which countries are going to be in the different traffic light system — red, amber and green — in early May.
He added: “People will predominantly of course be looking to book in a green country. There’s only two or three weeks to wait before we publish that list itself, but yes, tentative progress, for the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps summer holiday. But we’re doing it very, very cautiously because we don’t want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”
Under the traffic-light scheme, travellers arriving from a green list country will need to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before the second day of their arrival back in the UK, but will not need to quarantine.
From an amber country, arrivals must quarantine for 10 days and take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight, with the option for Test to Release on day 5 to end self-isolation early.
Those coming into the UK from a red-list country will be subject to restrictions currently in place, including an 11-night stay in a managed quarantine hotel, pre-departure testing and PCR testing on days two and eight.
Amid concerns over the cost of a holiday with the additional tests, with PRC tests costing around £120, the cabinet minister added: “Costs are definitely a concern — it’s one of the factors this year. We have to accept we’re still going through a global pandemic.”
But the EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren claimed the plan was “a blow to all travellers” and risked “making flying only for the wealthy”.
“As the rest of British society and the economy opens up, it makes no sense to treat travel, particularly to low-risk countries, differently,” he added.
Mark Tanzer, boss of travel trade organisation Abta, said permitting the use of lateral flow tests would “make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against reimportation of the virus”.
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