Boris under pressure to fix foreign holidays FAST! Ministers urge PM to expand ‘green list’


Boris Johnson today poured cold water on holidays hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk an ‘influx of disease’.

The PM insisted the government will be ‘cautious’ amid bitter Cabinet wrangling over how far to loosen the border restrictions this month. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty are said to be among those pushing for quarantine-free states to be kept to an absolute minimum.

But other senior figures are urging a looser approach, insisting that with the outbreak under control in the UK and vaccines making strong progress the government has no right to keep curbing freedoms.

Mr Johnson suggested he is siding with the dovish camp on a pre-election visit to Hartlepool this afternoon.  

‘We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,’ he told reporters.

‘I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.’

The comments came as the EU unveiled plans to let vaccinated Brits in for holidays.

Brussels has offered hope for getaways with proposals for easing border rules for those who have had jabs and from countries with low infection rates.   

The UK’s ‘green list’ is not expected to be revealed until Friday, leaving millions of Britons in limbo as they wonder whether trips will be possible.

Gibraltar and Malta might be on the list, but much of Europe and the US could remain out of bounds due to fears over variant strains.

Portugal is one country that could be added, with advocates saying infections and the risk of variants is now very low there.  

However, a cross-party group of MPs has insisted that holidays should be discouraged even once they become legal in a fortnight’s time. 

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French tried to strike a more positive note about the prospects for later in the summer, saying there is ‘great progress’ in preparing destinations such as Portugal and Spain for the return of holidaymakers. 

Boris Johnson is today facing pressure from ministers to expand the travel 'green list' and give millions of Britons hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. Pictured: A beach in Malaga, Spain

Boris Johnson is today facing pressure from ministers to expand the travel ‘green list’ and give millions of Britons hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. Pictured: A beach in Malaga, Spain

On a visit to Hartlepool today, Boris Johnson poured cold water on holidays hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel 'green list' from May 17 could risk an 'influx of disease'

On a visit to Hartlepool today, Boris Johnson poured cold water on holidays hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk an ‘influx of disease’ 

EU set to open up to UK holidaymakers 

EU states are set to open their borders to holidaying Brits who have been fully vaccinated. 

Under current restrictions, only people from seven countries, including Australia and Singapore, are allowed to enter the bloc for non-essential reasons. 

The commission’s new proposals would extend that to foreign citizens who have been fully vaccinated or are from countries with a ‘good epidemiological situation’.

People arriving from the UK, Russia and a number of other countries would be able to meet the new criteria, according to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, US citizens might not.

‘The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,’ an EU statement said.

‘This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. In addition, the Commission proposes to raise… the threshold related to the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted.’

To limit the risk of importing new coronavirus variants, the Commission also offered a new ’emergency brake’ that would introduce swift travel restrictions for countries where the situation deteriorates.

EU member states are due to start discussing the proposal tomorrow.

The Government is expected to announce as early as this week the first countries that Britons can visit without having to quarantine – but the list is only believed to include a handful of destinations.

The so-called ‘green list’ will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe – will be announced before the end of this month.

For much of the country, the half-term break starts on May 31.

Under the traffic-light system for foreign travel, those returning from green countries will not need to quarantine but will have to take two Covid tests – one before they return to the UK, which can be either a lateral flow or PCR test, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive back.

Under the traffic-light system for foreign travel, those returning from green countries will not need to quarantine but will have to take two Covid tests – one before they return to the UK, which can be either a lateral flow or PCR test, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive back.

Those who return from countries designated as either amber or red will still have to quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, and have three compulsory tests. Government officials are debating whether to stick to previous policy plans of having all children under 11 exempt from having to take the tests.

The majority of European countries are expected to be given amber status this week, but there is optimism that some will turn green when the list is next updated.

The ban on overseas holidays will end on May 17, along with the threat of fines for attempting to travel without a permitted reason.

But Cabinet ministers are understood to be privately urged the Prime Minister overrule Mr Hancock Prof Whitty’s timid approach.

The pair are said to be pushing Mr Johnson to limit the number of countries on the ‘green list’ to a ‘tiny’ group.  

One government source told the Times: ‘You’ve got the usual hawks on the health side like Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty who are more cautious.’ 

However another cabinet minister told the paper they were attempting to step in and increase the number of countries on the list.

They said: ‘The government has no right to take people’s freedoms away. It did it because we were in an emergency but these rights don’t belong to the government.’

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month (Gibraltar pictured)

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month (Gibraltar pictured)

Sources say the so-called 'green list' will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe

Sources say the so-called ‘green list’ will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the ‘chopping and changing’ of the travel corridors list introduced last summer, as he said he will ‘wait and see’ what the Government announces on plans to restart international travel.

‘We need to be very careful. I think it’s clear that the virus is increasing in some countries around the world, so we have to be very, very careful,’ he told reporters during a campaign visit to Lewisham.

‘What we can’t have is a repeat of last summer, where the lists were chopping and changing on a daily or even weekly basis.

‘So I’ll wait and see what the Government has to say but I think we have to be very careful and very cautious.’ 

Under current EU restrictions, only people from seven countries, including Australia and Singapore, are allowed to enter the bloc for non-essential reasons.

The commission’s new proposals would extend that to foreign citizens who have been fully vaccinated or are from countries with a ‘good epidemiological situation’.

People arriving from the UK, Russia and a number of other countries would be able to meet the new criteria, according to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, US citizens might not.

‘The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,’ an EU statement said.

‘This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. In addition, the Commission proposes to raise… the threshold related to the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted.’

To limit the risk of importing new coronavirus variants, the Commission also offered a new ’emergency brake’ that would introduce swift travel restrictions for countries where the situation deteriorates.

EU member states are due to start discussing the proposal tomorrow.

Mr French suggested that Thomas Cook is hoping for a much broader opening by the peak summer season. 

‘When the holidays proper start at the end of June, we are expecting most of the countries that the UK goes on holiday to – Europe particularly – to be open,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘We are expecting Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and so forth to be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open.

‘When we look at what is going on in those countries, both in terms of infection rates and how they are preparing for holidaymakers, I think there is great progress being made.’

Foreign holidays look set to resume this month as the Government prepares to reveal the 'green list' next week. Ministers are poised to decide next week that foreign holidays can resume from May 17, the next stage at which restrictions ease

Foreign holidays look set to resume this month as the Government prepares to reveal the ‘green list’ next week. Ministers are poised to decide next week that foreign holidays can resume from May 17, the next stage at which restrictions ease

Meanwhile, the all-party parliamentary group on Covid (APPG) today issued a report recommending holidays abroad should be discouraged – even once they are made legal.

In their report, the cross-party group of MPs said: ‘The UK government should discourage all international leisure travel to prevent the importation of new variants into the UK, in order to reduce the risk of a third wave and further lockdowns.

‘This recommendation should be implemented immediately and reviewed on a quarterly basis.’

The group have insisted the Government keep restrictions and continue to prop-up the travel industry – who could lose billions of pounds if foreign holidays are banned for a second successive year.  

It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday warned that some measures such as masks will be in place into the summer.

While he insisted the UK is ‘turning the corner’ as Covid recedes, he stressed ‘some safeguards’ may remain to ward off a potential further wave of the virus.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We want to get to the position at the end of June when we can get life back as close to normal as possible, but there will still need to be some safeguards in place.’

Mr Raab later refused to deny there were tensions within the cabinet about easing foreign travel, telling Times Radio: ‘It’s absolutely right that we discuss and debate those issues very carefully. We want to open up, that’s our instinct as a country.

‘We want to be having the travel for social reasons and for economic reasons.

‘On the other hand, obviously it goes without saying we want to make sure we can do it safely. So I think that’s the right approach. It’s a balance.’ 



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