People enjoy sunny weather at the beach, Barcelona, Spain – Shutterstock
Foreign holidays will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest as a review is conducted into the safety of reopening borders.
The current raft of tough travel restrictions – including triple testing of passengers, quarantine hotels for arrivals from red list countries and 10-day self-isolation at home for other travellers – will remain in place until mid-May.
However, the review will investigate how they could be lifted through vaccine certificates for travellers who want to holiday abroad and verify their inoculations, and through testing for both inbound and outbound travellers.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will head the review which is expected to report on April 12 in time for a potential decision by May 17.
IATA, an international association of airlines that is in talks with the Government, claims its vaccination app, operating in a similar way to yellow fever certificates, could be ready to go live by the end of March.
But government sources insisted no date had been set on when international travel could resume and it would only be determined by the review.
However, it is understood ministers are keen to restore it “as soon as possible” with the possibility that some restrictions including testing and some form of quarantine could be retained alongside any vaccine certification scheme to ensure a safe return to foreign travel.
It raises the possibility of foreign summer holidays abroad after the industry warned another lost summer could be devastating and urged Boris Johnson not to delay it until all adults have been vaccinated at the end of July.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, ABTA, the travel association, said: “The Government should recognise that we cannot wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel again.
“What we need are some principles for restarting travel – recognising that the return to normal life will never be entirely risk-free.”
Non-essential foreign travel is banned and all Britons face hotel quarantine if they come from 33 “red list” countries where new variants have emerged. All arrivals have to have a negative pre-departure test and take further tests on day two and day eight of self-isolation.
The red list countries could expand before mid-May if new variants emerge. However, vaccine certificates are being developed in anticipation of an agreed international system for countries to accept the certificates as a condition of entry for travellers.
Greece and Israel last week signed a deal that will allow people vaccinated against the coronavirus to move freely between the two countries once travel restarts.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pushed the EU to adopt a common vaccination passport to help the tourism industry but Brussels has been hesitant, so far limiting its support to medical purposes only. Opponents have also flagged concerns about discrimination.
There are also concerns that third-party developers cannot be plugged into the NHS’s patient record database to find out which travellers have been vaccinated, so every jab may have to be recorded separately in an app by nurses at vaccine centres.
IATA’s TravelPass app aims to allow the user to upload their vaccine information while airlines could incorporate the IATA technology into their own apps.