Boris Johnson has told the nation he hopes to be able to provide more clarity on the outlook for a resumption of international travel early next month.
Speaking at the government’s latest Covid briefing on Tuesday (23 March), Johnson said he "certainly" intended to offer an update on travel by 5 April.
This would precede a report, due to be made public on 12 April, by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which has been tasked with establishing how international travel in the age of Covid can be restarted safely and robustly, with 17 May fixed as the "at the very earliest" date for any such resumption.
Dominic Yeatman of The Metro pressed Johnson on the UK’s travel ban exemption for those who own second homes overseas, citing Johnson’s father, Stanley, as an example.
"Would you advise people to buy a second home abroad if they want to have a holiday this year?" Yeatman asked the prime minister.
Johnson responded: "A lot of people do want to know about what’s going to happen on the holiday front. I know there is a great deal of curiosity and interest. All I can say is that it is just too early to say. My advice to everybody is to wait for the Global Travel Taskforce to report.
"We’ve heard already there are other European countries where their disease is now rising, so things certainly look difficult for the time being. But we will be able to say more, we hope, in a few days’ time. I certainly hope to be saying some more by 5 April."
The UK’s "stay at home" order will be lifted on Monday (29 March) in what the government has described as stage 1A of its plans to exit lockdown.
Some limited domestic leisure travel in self-contained holiday accommodation will be permitted from 12 April as part of a wider second stage of the government’s plans to lift various restrictions.
Besides the taskforce due to report on 12 April, an integrated review of vaccine certification to unlock various domestic leisure pursuits, being led by the Cabinet Office, is also expected.
Despite the government’s plans to strengthen its legal provisions to keep Brits at home until the start of July if deemed necessary to guard against the import of new Covid-19 variants, 17 May – which will mark the start of the third stage of the government’s roadmap out of Covid lockdown – remains the "at the very earliest" date for a resumption of international travel.
Various mechanisms have been floated that could govern the resumption of international travel, including a traffic light system. The EU, meanwhile, has devised a digital green pass that will allow travellers to certify their Covid status through a digital vaccination certificate and/or evidence of a negative pre-travel test for coronavirus.
Vaccine certification and pre-departure testing are expected to be key components of any plan to restart international travel.
Johnson added the UK’s current border measures, which include a pre-departure test requirement for prospective arrivals, hotel quarantine for arrivals from "red list" countries, 10 days’ self-isolation and post-arrival tests on day two and day eight of people’s quarantine requirement, would remain under review.