There was hope for summer holidays last night after it emerged that a traffic-light system could allow flights abroad to resume.
Trips to Bahrain, the US, the Maldives, Israel and Malta could be the first available for Britons desperate to get abroad due to their high vaccination rates.
The scheme to enable quarantine-free travel to ‘green’ destinations is likely to be unveiled within days, Whitehall sources said.
Boris Johnson is expected to reveal plans on Monday for a staged lifting of the ban on foreign holidays.
A second announcement setting out more detail of how the system would work could come within a week.
Preparing for take-off: Transatlantic businesses and airport chiefs want flights to resume. The scheme to enable quarantine-free travel to ‘green’ destinations is likely to be unveiled within days, Whitehall sources said (file photo)
May 17 has been pencilled in as the earliest date when foreign travel might resume.
But a source suggested it was ‘too early’ to release a list of destinations given how quickly Covid data can change.
The scheme is likely to have at least three tiers, with only those travelling from ‘green’ countries exempt from quarantine, perhaps with a 15-minute lateral-flow test on return.
Those from ‘amber’ nations would need a negative result from a more stringent PCR test before boarding a UK-bound flight, in addition to some quarantine and post-arrival tests.
Travel to ‘red’ countries would effectively still be banned, with ten-day hotel quarantine at a cost of £1,750 continuing for arrivals.
A passenger exits a Covid-19 testing centre at Terminal 5 of London’s Heathrow Airport on February 9. Only a few countries are expected to be safe enough to allow quarantine-free holidays by early summer
Vaccination rates in other countries will be a key factor for whether destinations are designated ‘green’, as will the prevalence of mutant variants and a nation’s ability to detect them.
Only a few countries are expected to be safe enough to allow quarantine-free holidays by early summer.
However, Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye said he believed holidays would be possible to many countries within four months as vaccination rates catch up with the UK’s.
He told Times Radio: ‘I would expect that by the time we get to July, when people are thinking about their summer holidays, a lot of countries to have opened up.’
He said the US ‘should be at the front of the queue’ for relaxed border restrictions, and cited Israel as another contender due to its low infection and high vaccination rates.
Vaccination rates in other countries will be a key factor for whether destinations are designated ‘green’, as will the prevalence of mutant variants and a nation’s ability to detect them (file photo)
More than 100 UK and US business chiefs have pleaded with Mr Johnson to prioritise a transatlantic holiday corridor by harnessing both countries’ successful vaccination schemes.
In a letter, they said thousands of UK tourism, hospitality and retail firms relied on the £4billion spent here annually by US visitors.
They warned that the economy would continue to take a £32million hit for every day of delay in lifting travel restrictions between the nations.
They said: ‘Each year, 4.5million US citizens visit the UK. Similarly, 4.8million UK residents visit the US, including a million visits to see friends and family.
‘We know there remains significant demand in the USA for a return to travel to the UK.
‘The reopening travel between the US and the UK needs to be a priority to support the recovery of our economies.’
Boris Johnson, pictured giving an update on the Covid pandemic on March 29, is expected to reveal plans on Monday for a staged lifting of the ban on foreign holidays
Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation Group, said: ‘Across the UK, we have strong ties with the US, from businesses who trade with the US to those travelling for leisure and those looking to visit family and friends.
‘These cultural, economic and social bonds will be vital to our economic and social recovery from the pandemic and there is little reason to continue keeping transatlantic travel grounded.
‘These vital routes have been shut for too long.’
America aims to have all adults vaccinated at least once by mid-May. Its infection rates are lower than in most of Europe.
But British nationals are still banned from entering for holidays.