Travel’s hopes of a mid-May restart have taken another blow, with the government set to strengthen legislative provisions to keep Brits at home until the start of July.
The Times reports new draft laws will give the government scope to extend its ban on overseas travel without "reasonable excuse" until 30 June, backed by £5,000 fines. Overseas leisure travel will remain banned from Monday (29 March), when the government’s "stay at home" rule is lifted.
MPs are expected to vote on the proposals on Thursday (25 March) ahead of them coming into effect on Monday.
Citing government "officials", the paper reports the June date having been chosen for "legislative convenience". It also stressed the move, which comes in reaction to fears of a new third wave of coronavirus infection in mainland Europe, would not pre-empt the findings of the Global Travel Taskforce.
Boris Johnson on Monday (22 March) said people should be under no illusions that the spike in Covid infections in Europe would impact the UK to some extent. It comes after ministers played down the prospect of a prompt resumption of international travel at the weekend.
The taskforce, meanwhile, is working on a framework that would allow international travel to resume safely and robustly from 17 May "at the very earliest". It is due present its findings on 12 April.
It is expected any initial resumption of international travel will be made possible by a combination of vaccine certification and testing, with quarantine on return also an option.
The Cabinet Office is exploring a domestic vaccine certification system, which the government has said will tie in with the work of the Global Travel Taskforce. The EU, meanwhile, has set out its plans for a digital green pass allowing travellers to verify their Covid status via an app hosting details of vaccine certification or a pre-departure negative Covid test.
A traffic lights system has also been floated following discussions dating to early March, The Guardian reported on Monday.
Health minister Lord Bethell said the government could yet put the UK’s nearest European neighbours on its travel "red list", which would require any arrivals from the continent to test negative for Covid-19 before they travel, complete 10 days’ hotel quarantine and submit to further tests on days two and eight of their self-isolation.
Scotland and Wales are currently aligned with England in working towards a 17 May restart at the earliest; the Northern Ireland executive is yet to reveal its plans.