Vaccine passports ‘offer increasing optimism for overseas holidays’

Ministers and officials working on lifting lockdown measures are “increasingly optimistic” that Brits can travel for foreign holidays this summer, say reports.

The Times said the government is considering “internationally recognised vaccination passports” that will allow people to travel and is in talks with holiday destinations, such as Greece, about how they will work.

The prime minister will announce the route out of lockdown on Monday but the newspaper said it is expected to be a broad outline and not a timeline for easing restrictions on holidays.

MoreAbta working with destinations on vaccine certificate plans

A Whitehall source told The Times: “It’s looking increasingly positive on summer holidays. Once the vaccination passport system is set up it should be straightforward. That won’t be easy, but we can see the way ahead.”

However, another government source warned there are many variables to consider, such as the vaccination programme and how it affects transmission.

The Greek tourism minister revealed on Thursday that his government is in “preliminary discussions” with UK ministers over a possible travel agreement for vaccinated British travellers.

Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis said he is hopeful that holidaymakers could travel without the need for Covid-19 tests.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that Britons as young as 40 could be offered a vaccination within five weeks.

It said government advisers are set to recommend the next phase of the vaccine deployment continues on the basis of age, rather than prioritising key workers.

“But the age brackets will be wider than before – meaning 40 to 49-year-olds are likely to be invited to have a jab once the 32 million people in the top nine groups have had their first dose. Earlier this week it emerged this target could be hit as soon as March 24, if the daily average is maintained,” it said.

Elsewhere, an Oxford University report out on Friday said vaccine passports that would open up international travel are “feasible” but a lack of set standards across countries mean that they cannot be introduced yet, scientists have said.

Scientists also said that more details are needed about how effective vaccines are in preventing transmission, and the duration of protective immunity they provide, in order to establish how long a passport might be valid.

Welsh tourism

Closer to home, Wales could open up to holidaymakers in time for Easter, according to the Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford.

Later today, he is due to outline plans for Wales to come out of lockdown in March onwards.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Friday: “I met our tourism taskforce yesterday. We will be having some detailed discussions with them now over the next couple of weeks to see if there is anything that we might be able to do around the Easter period.

“The most that would be is the reopening of self-contained accommodation where there are not shared facilities and there is not social mixing.

“If we could do that in six weeks’ time that would, I know, be a boost to the industry and a big boost to hundreds and thousands of families in Wales for whom going down the caravan for a few days or a break would be a very welcome prospect.”

The Easter weekend this year falls on April 2-5 and ITV reported that tourism businesses are calling for more certainty over when lockdown restrictions will be eased so they can start trading fully again.

“The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) Wales is calling for a roadmap for reopening, but to also take into account the tourism sector’s need to start taking bookings as the spring and summer seasons approach,” said ITV News.

“There are about 11,000 tourism businesses in Wales which bring in more than £6 billion a year.”

However, foreign office minister James Cleverly MP would not be drawn on plans to open up English domestic tourism.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said it would be wrong to “guess and speculate” ahead of the announcement by the prime minister on Monday, adding: “We are making a judgement based on the science.”

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