Boris Johnson boosts holiday hopes as he vows to make travel ‘simpler’
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But the Prime Minister said: “We need to get people, get the travel industry, moving again…need to get our city centres open again. “And so we want an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it.”
Mr Johnson said that the Government is attempting to strike a balance between allowing holidays overseas and stopping fresh coronavirus variants entering the UK.
He continued: “What I want to see is something that is as simple and as user friendly for people as possible.
Conservative MPs and travel industry leaders had warned that repeated last-minute rule changes were leading to a collapse in bookings in summer getaways.
Ministers had been preparing to introduce an amber watchlist of countries.
That would have warned travellers that their chosen destination was at risk of being switched into the stricter red category – that would then force them into paying for 10-day hotel quarantine on their return.
Spain is one of the popular destinations said to be earmarked for the list, sparking fears of an exodus back home of an estimated one million Britons keen to avoid any changes.
Critics also warned the system – which had started with three simple categories of green, amber and red countries – was becoming so confusing that the last few weeks of the key holiday season were being ruined.
Since the original traffic light rules were introduced, the Government has added a green watchlist advising that a destination is at risk of changing.
Plus an amber plus category, which forces travellers to isolate at home even if they are double jabbed.
Mr Johnson rejected any fresh travel rule changes yesterday on a visit to Stevenage.
He said: “We’ve had to balance it because of the anxiety that a lot of people have about importing new variants, bringing back the disease.
“But we also have to recognise that people want badly to go on their summer holidays.
“We need to get people, get the travel industry, moving again…need to get our city centres open again. And so we want an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it.”
“Expats were among the first passengers to take advantage of yesterday’s border relaxation that allowed those European and US travellers with approved Covid vaccinations to visit Britain without mandatory quarantine.
The change is expected to help boost the struggling tourism industry.
The Prime Minister said he wants to fire up an economic fightback, now that most of the country has been vaccinated.
He said: “We are in favour of jobs and growth throughout the UK. We have got a big programme to convert the vaccine rollout into the fastest and most sustainable economic recovery that we can.”
The latest review of the travel lists is expected by Thursday but few additions to the green category are thought likely.
Martyn Sumners, the executive director of the Assocition of Independent Tour Operators, said popular destinations such as France, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal “must open and stay open. If Thursday’s update is the usual wishy-washy tweet that only adds green destinations that no one has heard of, are difficult to reach or won’t accept Brits, it will be yet another complete waste of space.”
Mark Fenelon, the chief executive officer of Clink Hostels group, said: “The new Indian variant spreading across Europe – and in addition the fear of ad-hoc sudden changes to country-specific entry rules – has suddenly stalled the big uplift in travel demand. Despite the massive pent-up demand, people are deciding to not travel for fear of possible travel chaos.”
A further 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test were reported yesterday, plus 21,952 more infections.
The change to the test and trace app comes after the system “pinged” a record near-700,000 people last week.
The app changes announced yesterday will see fewer users sent isolation alerts as the system will check contacts for two days before a positive test, instead of five.
Ministers said that the change will still result in the same number of high-risk contacts being advised to isolate.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We want to reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses, while ensuring we’re protecting those most at risk.
“It’s so important that people isolate when asked to do so in order to stop the spread of the virus and protect their communities.”
In the first three weeks of July as cases increased, the app prevented up to 2,000 infections per day plus an estimated 1,600 admissions to hospital, analysis has claimed.
The research also showed the app reduced the spread of the virus by around 4.3 percent each week.
Despite the impact of the pingdemic, around 40 percent of the eligible population are still regularly using the app while around half of all reported Covid tests are being inputted.
Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive officer of the UK Health Security Agency, called the app “the simplest, easiest and fastest way to find out whether you have been exposed to the virus.”
Meanwhile millions of Australians were yesterday facing “stay home” orders until at least the end of the week.
Following an increase in Indian variant infections, authorities imposed snap lockdowns in south-eastern Queensland, including Brisbane – Australia’s third-largest city.
The clampdowns came as anger grew at Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the country’s vaccination programme – less than 15 percent of Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid.
The restrictions are the strictest yet in Queensland.
Residents have been ordered to stay at home apart from when they are buying essential goods, when they are carrying out essential work or exercising or when travelling for medical treatment.
New South Wales recorded another death and 210 fresh infections on Saturday, after five weeks of lockdown.
Last week Australian police arrested dozens of demonstrators who protested against the restrictions.
New South Wales state officials have reportedly announced that they are diverting their allocated vaccine doses to Sydney, sending tens of thousands of shots to high school students around the city so that face-to-face teaching can resume.
Mr Morrison has said that once 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated – by the end of this year, he hoped – lockdowns would become more targeted.
Comment by Martyn Summers
THREE areas – traffic lights, much cheaper testing and no quarantine – are key to restarting holidays overseas and the survival of holiday companies.
Specialist tour operators and travel agents offering holidays all over the world haven’t been able to trade for 17 months. Can it get any worse?
Popular destinations such as France, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal must open and stay open, and the Government must act to make holiday destinations in Africa, Asia and the Americas accessible where possible, with reciprocal agreements to get the economy back on its feet.
Livelihoods are at stake, with the survival of previously-profitable companies, founded decades ago and employing 500,000 people, being threatened.
That is a lot of jobs at risk, and will have serious knock-on effects across the UK – from vital inbound travel, worth billions to UK PLC, to the hospitality and retail sectors.
The Government must act immediately and save what’s left of the summer. If the update is the usual wishy-washy Tweet that only adds Green destinations that no one has heard of, are difficult to reach or won’t accept Brits, it will be yet another complete waste of space.
If travel doesn’t start immediately, that will be the nail in the coffin for many companies. It will reduce consumer choice and will result in higher prices.
With other countries opening up to travel – Germany and France are leading the way in Europe – we will go from being a Global Britain travel superpower to a Little Britain travel minnow.
Our economy needs travel to open up. Let’s stop prevaricating and just do it.
• Martyn Summers is Executive director of AITO.
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