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Hopes grow for family holidays to Europe by end of July

Hopes grow for family holidays to Europe by end of July

Travellers at Heathrow airport in London – Andy Rain/ Shutterstock

Family holidays to Europe will be back on from the end of July under plans to be considered by ministers as early as this week.

It comes as official data revealed government scientists found no evidence of Covid variants in more than 23,000 people tested after arriving from amber list countries including Europe.

Fully vaccinated adults will be allowed to travel to amber countries with their children without having to quarantine under the plans being drawn up by Department for Transport (DfT) officials.

The DfT is understood to want to exempt unvaccinated children from the double jab scheme, enabling them to return without having to quarantine although they will still face tests to screen for Covid and its variants.

The move would open up popular European holiday destinations to families that are currently amber including Spain, Greece, France and Portugal although ministers are not expected to introduce any changes until August.

The proposals may be considered by ministers as early as this week to meet a June 28 deadline for reviewing the Government’s traffic light system for travel. The Cabinet’s Covid-O committee is due to meet later this week to consider whether to expand its quarantine-free green list.

A source said: “The DfT paper has been written. They want children to be exempted from the double vaccination scheme but they have no idea how to operationalise it for foreign nationals.

“UK nationals are okay as they trust their vaccination data but they’re worried about fraud and nationals from other countries presenting false vaccine records. If they can’t work it out it could be a decision as to whether they just do it for UK nationals.”

With 60 per cent of adults now double vaccinated and new evidence that the risk of variants from amber countries is low, the Government has been urged to open up foreign travel faster.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “No Covid cases from people arriving from green list countries, zero variants from amber and a very low positivity rate. This is clear evidence of the Government treating international travel differently from the domestic economy.

“The Prime Minister said he was interested in data, not dates. He should be good to his word. If the unlocking of the domestic economy takes place as planned on July 19, there is no reason why international travel should have to wait several more weeks.”

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Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency said: “The Government’s own testing data clearly shows amber countries are low risk, with no variants of concern to worry about and increasing vaccination rates. The data proves that a change of policy is now needed.

“A wider green list and more flexibility for those double-jabbed would boost consumer confidence, generate more bookings and help travel firms to recover faster. With this NHS data, no government minister has an excuse to delay re-opening now.”

Henry Smith MP, Tory chair of the all party future of aviation group, said: “These figures clearly show that our current chaotic and overly cautious approach to international travel is not based on data at all.

“Our approach to international travel simply defies belief, as Europe reopens, we have gone from a restart based on data and science to the near total closure of our airports without proper explanation or justification.

“The Government must ensure that the upcoming review ensures that international travel is reopened in line with our European neighbours.”

The DHSC data found none of the people arriving from 151 of the 167 amber countries tested positive for Covid between June 3 and June 9 and no variants were found in any of the 89 people who tested positive from the 16 other amber countries.

The rate of infection for amber countries, based on the tests, was just 0.4 per cent – or more than one in 200 – compared with a PCR test positivity rate in the UK of 2.7 per cent.

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Even among the red list countries, 34 of the 50 reported no positive cases. Some 435 (or 1.8 per cent) of the 24,511 people from red countries tested positive, of which 89 were sequenced as variants. None of the 503 people tested after arriving from green countries tested positive.

Government sources stressed, however, that not all test results were sequenced which meant the data could provide an incomplete picture.

Ministers will decide this week whether to expand the green list from the current 11 countries, of which Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel are the only viable holiday destinations.

Analysis by The PC Agency suggested 14 countries could be added under the Government’s own green criteria, but it is thought unlikely following the decision earlier this month to scale back foreign travel by axing Portugal from the list.

The PC Agency suggested Malta, Grenada, Finland, Poland, Morocco should move to green using the EU criteria on infection rates. Turkey should also switch from red to amber.

The most popular destinations for UK tourists are still in amber with Spain, France, Greece and Italy still seeing high infection rates despite their vaccine rates fast catching up with the UK’s. Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Cyprus now have more than half their adult population with one jab.

A DfT spokesman said: “We are always learning more about the virus and its variants. At this stage in the pandemic, our current approach is the right one but we keep our measures under review, as we set out in both the roadmap and Global Travel Taskforce report. No decisions have been made.”

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Shawn Utley

Shawn previously worked as a journalist for several local newspapers until he realized the potential of internet for news reporting. He joined the team as a contributor which provided him a platform to dedicate his experience and knowledge for a wider range of audience. He excels in curating business news for the website.

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