Prime minister Boris Johnson remains “hopeful” international travel can resume from 17 May but the government says people should not book summer holidays "until the picture is clearer".
“We are obviously hopeful we can get going from 17 May,” said Johnson when asked about the resumption of international travel during a press briefing at Downing Street on Monday (5 April).
But he added he did not wish to be a “hostage to fortune” and pointed to the higher Covid infection rates currently being seen in many destinations.
At the same time as Johnson was speaking, the government announced that it planned to use a traffic light system for the resumption of international travel from 17 May at the earliest. Although it added: "For the moment, the government advises people not to book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer."
The traffic light system would include the introduction of a green category with “no isolation requirement on return to the UK - although pre-departure and post-arrival tests would still be needed”.
“This new category will accommodate countries where we judge the risk to be lower, based for instance on vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity,” said the government in its update.
The prime minister also confirmed the reopening of non-essential retail in England from 12 April as part of the planned easing of Covid-19 restrictions, which was “fully justified by the data”.
Johnson emphasised that there was “currently nothing in the data that makes us think we will have to deviate from that road map”. But he did not give further details about how international travel will resume.
“The Global Travel Taskforce (GTT) is going to report later this week. We will be setting out well before 17 May what we think is reasonable. We’re not there yet,” said Johnson.
“We don’t want to see the virus being reimported – we have to be mindful of that.”
He also said that airlines would be “given as much notice as we possibly can” about the resumption of international travel and hinted that some kind of vaccine passport or certificate could eventually be introduced.
“The idea of vaccination status being used for international travel is something all countries are looking at. It’s part of the way people deal with it,” added Johnson.
In its update on the progress of the GTT, the government added: “It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential international travel resumes. These decisions will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time, which we cannot predict now.
“In advance of the resumption of non-essential international travel, we will set out our initial assessment of which countries will fall into which category.
“It is too early to say which countries will be on the green list when non-essential international travel resumes. These decisions will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time, which we cannot predict now.
“In advance of the resumption of non-essential international travel, we will set out our initial assessment of which countries will fall into which category.”