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Saturday, May 15, 2021

EU plans to welcome tourists next month – as No 10 told to 'discourage' holidays

The EU plans on opening up to foreign tourists this summer – including Britons – but some MPs want restrictions to remain on travelling abroad due to the risk of COVID-19 variants.

The bloc’s executive has recommended easing coronavirus travel restrictions next month to let foreign travellers from more countries enter to boost the stricken tourism industry.

Only people from seven countries can currently holiday in the European Union, including Australia and Singapore, if they show a negative COVID test and quarantine.

People sunbathe and swim on El Arenal beach in Palma de Mallorca
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Many Britons are keen to go overseas on holiday but the chances are uncertain

On Monday, new proposals released by the European Commission – which require approval by the EU’s 27 member states – would let in fully vaccinated foreign citizens and those from countries with a “good epidemiological situation”.

Travellers from Britain, Russia and several other countries would meet the new criteria, according to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It comes as a cross-party group of UK MPs have warned that limits on international leisure travel should continue even after 17 May.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus has told the government to “discourage all international leisure travel” this year to protect the UK from COVID-19 variants.

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The ban on foreign holidays is expected to end for England from 17 May as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

But Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, chair of the group, told Sky News: “We wouldn’t want to have for the sake of one summer holiday us go backwards and have a further wave and a further lockdown.”

She warned that allowing international travel again could “scupper our progress at the very last minute”.

“Let’s be really cautious and rather than encouraging people to be going away, our view is that the government should be discouraging people from taking their holiday this year,” she added.

“The government should be the ones telling people maybe not this year, just wait a few more precious months and then when we’ve got enough people vaccinated, not just here but around the world, we will get back to normal.

“It just might not be this summer.”

The group said it had identified a number of issues that the resumption of international travel would raise, including airport arrival halls being a “breeding ground for infection” and the importation of variants which could lead to “further lockdowns and inevitably further loss of life”.

It recommended that passengers returning from green, amber, and red countries under the new risk-based system should not be able to mix.

Their documents should be checked before they enter an arrival hall so those being taken to quarantine facilities can be moved “rapidly”.

Boris Johnson said he did not want to see an “influx of disease” once international travel gets going again, stressing the government was being “as cautious as we can” with its roadmap.

Asked if people should be planning a holiday abroad in the weeks and months to come, the PM said: “We will be saying more as soon as we can.

“I think that there will be some openings up on the 17th, but we have got to be cautious and we have got to be sensible and we have got to make sure that we don’t see the virus coming back in.”

Mr Johnson, who was speaking on a campaign visit to Hartlepool, also said there is a “good chance” the one-metre plus social distancing rule can be scrapped from 21 June.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the UK has to be “very careful” when it comes to international travel.

“I think it’s clear that the virus is increasing in some countries around the world, so we have to be very, very careful,” he said during a campaign visit to Lewisham in southeast London.

“What we can’t have is a repeat of last summer, where the lists were chopping and changing on a daily or even weekly basis.

“So I’ll wait and see what the government has to say but I think we have to be very careful and very cautious.”

The MPs’ report comes just days after an initial deadline for grading countries under a new traffic light system for international travel was missed.

A report last week by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee said the lists of destinations should be published by Saturday 1 May “at the latest”, but this did not happen.

The Department for Transport said the lists will be made public in “early May”.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, claimed the “best financial support the government can now offer the travel sector is to open up overseas travel as planned from 17 May”.

He went on: “Not only can this be done safely with widespread testing, but it would also unlock much-needed revenues from business and leisure travellers keen to see family they haven’t seen for a year.

“Better digital technology would certainly enable more seamless travel through our borders and I’d urge the government to invest in this more quickly so as to avoid airport queues in future.”

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A government spokesperson said: “We introduced robust border controls to stop coronavirus variants in their tracks and every essential check we’ve introduced for arrivals has strengthened our defences against new mutations.

“As the UK unlocks domestically and with many British families spread far and wide, we understand that people may need to travel abroad for all sorts of reasons.

“But we can only permit it if it is done safely, which is why the Global Travel Taskforce has produced the traffic light system allowing us to manage the risk from imported cases by varying restrictions depending on the risk of travel from a specific location.”

This post courtesy of sky

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