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Grant Shapps Says People Can Start Planning Foreign Holidays As Government Unveils Traffic Light Travel System

Grant Shapps suggest today that people could book foreign holidays this summer (Alamy)

4 min read

The transport secretary said this morning that people can start to think about booking foreign summer holidays as the government set out its framework for the resumption of international travel.

Recommendations by the Global Travel Taskforce said the individual risk of destination countries should be indicated by a traffic light system, and proposed that all travellers should undertake coronavirus testing and quarantine at their own expense. 

“I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book some holidays now, it’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months, I think everybody doing it understands there are risks with coronavirus,” Grant Shapps told Sky News.

“For the first time, people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps a summer holiday, but we’re doing it very, very cautiously because we don’t want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”

“What we’ve got today is a framework for doing that, so there’s a traffic light system you have been talking about – red, amber, green,” he told Sky News.

“In the green category, we’ll try to make it as affordable as possible to travel.

“But taking an abundance of caution as we go, because we don’t want to throw away all the good work of these lockdowns and people coming forward for vaccines by picking up variants of concern or anything else.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds, however, criticised the lack of transparency surrounding the plans, though he agreed that a “cautious approach” was needed going forward.

Asked on the BBC’s Today programme if he felt foreign holidays should go ahead this summer, he said: “I think it is too early to say at the moment.” “But I have to say I have found today extremely frustrating because, once again, we've had this so-called traffic light system drip fed into the media over the last few days. 

“It's then announced but with no real proper transparency around the criteria for countries going into different categories on a day when Parliament isn't sitting, on a day when we can't question ministers as to the detail of what is proposed.”

He continued: “I think everyone would like to see the possibility of holidays abroad this summer. But my point is that a cautious approach now is what is required in order to be in a position to even consider that. 

“That's why securing our borders now against potential variants of Covid that have yet to emerge is so important. I've been arguing for months to have a comprehensive hotel quarantine system in place. It's more urgent than ever.”

Under the proposed system, those travelling to and from a “green” country would be required to take a coronavirus test pre-departure and upon their return to the UK, which is estimated to cost around £120 per person, and would only have to quarantine should they test positive. 

Those returning from “amber” countries would need to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, while those coming back from “red” countries will have to pay for a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel.The government has not confirmed if international travel will resume on 17 May, with today's recommendations from the Global Travel Taskforce intended to "show how international travel could resume from 17 May 2021 at the earliest".

Shapps said he understood that the cost of the test and quarantine is “definitely a concern” to some people, but said people had to “accept we're still going through a global pandemic”.

However, John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, questioned the necessity of the additional tests, describing it as “overkill”. 

“The main concern is over the cost or some of the tests that are required, and whether they really are necessary, or whether they're just adding more checks on top of checks that already exist,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“So if we take something like a green list country, the definition that the government is setting for those is that there's very low levels of COVID. There's high levels of vaccination in those countries. And there's very low levels of variants of concern — which is what they are primarily testing for at the moment. 

“If you're fully vaccinated yourself, you travel to somewhere like the US which might be a green list country. 

“When you come back again, you have to take a test before you get on the plane to show you don't have Covid and then two days after you arrive, you have to take this expensive PCR test to show you don't have Covid as well. 

“That's gonna feel like overkill for most people. I've been vaccinated. I've been in a safe country, I've already taken the test, why am I taking this £150 test as well?”

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