Foreign summer holidays will pose ‘no risk’ to the UK’s own infection rate, provided that the destination’s case rate is not higher than our own, a leading epidemiologist and Government advisor has said.
“[If] by the summer, infection levels in France and Italy are the same sort of levels that they are here, then there is no risk associated with travelling overseas,” Professor Neil Ferguson told Radio Four’s Today programme.
“The risk comes from going from a place like the UK, with very low infection levels, to a place with much higher infection levels – and therefore having the risk of bringing infection back.”
Referencing the UK’s advanced inoculation programme, Professor Ferguson said the country is in a “good position to stick to the Government’s roadmap”, which aims to restart international travel on May 17.
The Government is to release its ‘traffic light’ list this week, with travel industry leaders expecting Spain, Greece and France to be given the green light for restriction-free travel by June. The EU, too, plans to approve vaccinated visitors in time for summer getaways.
However on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson played down hopes of an immediate mass getaway, saying that putting a significant number of countries on the “green list” from May 17 would risk an “influx of disease”.
Scroll down for more on this, and today’s other top travel stories.
Airlines praise EU for ‘game-changing’ approach to travel bans
The EU’s plans to welcome vaccinated tourists in time for summer have been welcomed by Airlines UK, which represents UK-registered carriers.
Chief executive Tim Alderslade commented: “This is an extremely important announcement that will pave the way for the reopening of the EU’s tourism and travel industry in time for the peak summer season.
“The EU should be congratulated for recognising that the success of the vaccine rollout – coupled with sensible vigilance around variants – is a game-changer that can and should enable a risk-based and proportionate system of international travel to resume.”
However, he added: “It is frustrating that the UK has not gone down the same road, with ministers here still reluctant to acknowledge that we can be more ambitious with our own plans, taking advantage of one of the most impressive vaccination programmes in the world, alongside quicker, cheaper testing and our globally renowned genomic sequencing capability.
“It’s about getting the risk balance right and we don’t believe the UK has done that yet.”
The UK Government is set to publish its ‘traffic light list’ this week, with Iceland, Malta, Israel and Gibraltar expected to be among the very few ‘green light’ destinations. So how are their vaccination and case rates looking – and which other countries might make the cut?
Rosa Ana Morilla Rodriguez, director general of tourism for the islands, said she was “very optimistic” that a deal could be agreed to open Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formenterato British holidaymakers.
She said she was hopeful that they could be included on the UK’s “green list” of countries, which is due to come into force from May 17. Britons returning from these countries would not have to quarantine when they get home.
“We have the right numbers, we have the right measures in place that will allow us to be considered ‘green’,” said Ms Morilla Rodriguez.
However, when the first iteration of the list is published this week, it is expected to comprise of only a “tiny handful” of fewer than 10 highly vaccinated countries, such as Gibraltar, Malta, Israel and Iceland, which Britons will be able to visit from May 17 without having to quarantine on their return. Most of the rest of Europe will be on an “amber list”, requiring quarantine.