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Government under ‘intense pressure’ over international travel

The government was under “intense pressure” to clarify its plans for international travel ahead of the latest review of the country list due on Thursday and a review of the traffic light system scheduled by Monday, June 28.

An industry source forecast “uproar if the country list does not change at all” and told Travel Weekly: “This is now top of the government agenda. They’re talking about it across government and there are a lot of cracks. It’s coming to a head.”

With an industry lobby of Parliament due on Wednesday, the source said: “They’re under intense pressure and, if you take out the red list, the [country] data looks good. The mitigation measures are there. It’s more likely the country at the other end would have concerns now.”

The source insisted: “We need a decision and some dates. The date doesn’t have to be the day after the announcement, but give us something. If they’re able to put a date on relaxing domestic restrictions [July 19], there is nothing to stop them putting a date on when international travel could reopen.

“That would address some of the anger and frustration. It would be unacceptable not to do something. Why does what they intend to do need to remain secret?”

A second source confirmed ministers would meet this week to discuss the country list and June 28 review and said: “There are lots of different opinions in government.

“The Department for Transport has produced a paper on recognising fully vaccinated passengers and they may offer a preview.

“But this is in ‘maybe in August’ territory. We don’t know if it would apply to international arrivals and we don’t know what they intend to do with children.

“We do expect an announcement on the green list this week.”

A third source suggested: “The government is being tight-lipped with the industry but leaking like a sieve to the media. Ministers are saying what they’d like to be able to do.”

Airlines and industry associations submitted a range of proposals, including exemption from quarantine and testing for fully vaccinated travellers. Iata and the UK Board of Airline Representatives argued the June 28 review should be used to “confidently outline revised measures and implementation dates, including alignment with domestic reopening plans”.

Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed plans to allow quarantine-free travel from amber list countries for those vaccinated, saying the plans “had not been clinically advised [on, but] we’re working on it” and added: “We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so.”

Airlines UK director of public affairs Rob Griggs told a Travel Technology Initiative forum: “The world is moving to a place where if you’re fully vaccinated you should be able to travel.

“The government’s premise around the delay to reopening domestically was to wait for more people to be double‑vaccinated. There is no reason why that shouldn’t also apply to international travel.”

However, Boris Johnson warned on Monday: “Whatever happens this is going to be a difficult year for travel. There will be hassle, there will be delays.
“I’m afraid the priority has to be to stop the virus coming back in.”

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