Freeing up international travel ‘difficult’ says Matt Hancock in holiday update

·2-min read
Control zone: arrivals at London Heathrow airport (Simon Calder)
Control zone: arrivals at London Heathrow airport (Simon Calder)

Removing quarantine restrictions from fully vaccinated travellers returning to the UK is not “clinically advised yet”, the health secretary has said.

As the travel industry prepares to challenge the effective shutdown of holidays abroad, Matt Hancock confirmed the government is considering allowing people who have had both jabs to avoid self-isolation.

At present the only viable holiday destinations from which quarantine is not required are Gibraltar and Iceland. Many other locations have far lower rates of coronavirus than the UK, and the travel industry is calling for a rapid expansion of the quarantine “green list”.

The next review is due on Thursday, with Malta, Italy, Morocco and Spain’s Balearic islands all candidates for moving from the “amber list” to green.

But yesterday the prime minister warned: “I want to stress that this is going to be, whatever happens, a difficult year for travel.

“There will be hassle, there will be delays, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in.”

On Sky News, Matt Hancock said the vaccine programme had freed up “a huge number of the restrictions here at home”. But he warned: “It is more difficult freeing up international travel.

“We have one of the tightest border control systems in the world and we have that because we want to protect this amazing progress we’ve made at home with the vaccination programme.

“We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so.”

The travel industry is staging a day of action at Westminster on Wednesday, calling for fewer restrictions on going abroad and financial support for agents, operators and airlines.

The Labour Party is demanding tougher travel restrictions, with the 167 countries on the amber list – including Spain, France, Italy and Greece – moved to the “red list,” requiring 11 nights of hotel quarantine.

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