Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is likely to keep tight limits on international travel for the weeks ahead, denting hopes of a major summer revival for aviation and tourism businesses which have been hammered by the pandemic.
Officials are set to announce a revised “green list” of countries deemed safe for leisure travel Thursday, but the government is likely to stay cautious in the face of a growing threat of another wave of infections, a person familiar with the matter said.
Johnson said that while he wanted to allow foreign travel, the government will have “no hesitation” to move previously safe countries onto the high-risk list if their pandemic situation worsens. The government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre will make recommendations about the safety of travel, he said.
“We’ve got to be cautious and we’ve got to continue to put countries on the red list, on the amber list, when that is necessary,” Johnson told reporters. “We will have no hesitation in moving countries from the green list to the amber list to the red list if we have to do so. The priority is to continue the vaccine rollout, to protect the people of this country.”
When the government lifted the ban on foreign tourism last month, only 12 locations were included on the list of safe destinations. Travel firms expressed their disappointment at the government’s decision to keep restrictions on trips to so many popular tourist areas.
Under the new “traffic-light” system for British overseas travel, destinations seen as having a moderate risk are allocated to an “amber” list, requiring passengers returning to Britain to self-isolate for 10 days, while those from high-risk “red” countries must quarantine in a hotel for the same period.
Passengers travelling to the U.K. from a “green list” country will need to take a Covid test before they set off, as well as another test after they arrive but will not need to quarantine on their return.
Johnson’s government is studying data on infections from the so-called delta variant, first detected in India, which has seen an upswing in cases in the U.K. in recent weeks, despite a successful vaccine program. He has warned the government may need to delay the final step in exiting lockdown restrictions on June 21 if the pandemic worsens.