Travel chiefs reacted with fury tonight as ministers warned Britons not to book foreign holidays and refused to rule out extending the international travel ban into summer.
Boris Johnson confirmed plans to replace the foreign holidays ban with a ‘traffic light’ system which would open up quarantine-free travel to destinations rated green.
Higher-risk locations would be graded amber or red, with varying testing and quarantine measures for each category.
But the PM stopped short of saying whether it would replace the blanket ban on foreign travel by May 17, failing to give any fixed date.
That date has been pencilled in as the earliest possible point for lifting the ban.
In a document updating the global travel situation, ministers said it was ‘too soon to know what is possible’ this summer.
The travel industry has slammed the lack of certainty over the future of holidays abroad after Boris Johnson stopped short of confirming the new traffic light system would come in in May
Health minister Edward Agar confirmed families face extra bills of hundreds of pounds for testing when they are eventually allowed to get away. Pictured: MPs in the House of Commons
It means sun-starved Britons hoping for a foreign summer holiday face having to wait another month or so to find out when and where breaks might be possible.
In another blow, a health minister confirmed families face extra bills of hundreds of pounds for testing when they are eventually allowed to get away.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing tonight, Mr Johnson said he was still ‘hopeful’ foreign travel can resume from May 17 for some destinations.
However, he also warned: ‘But I do not wish to give hostages to fortune or underestimate the difficulties that we’re seeing in some of the destination countries people might want to go to.
Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed plans to replace the foreign holidays ban with a ‘traffic light’ system which would open up quarantine-free travel to destinations rated green
‘We don’t want to see the virus being reimported into this country from abroad, plainly there is a surge in other parts of the world and we have to be mindful of that and we have to be realistic.’
He added: ‘I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from May, but we’re not there yet.
‘We’re going to give as much notice as we possibly can [on when foreign travel can resume], we’re going to want to get the country flying again.’
But Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye hit back: ‘It’s disappointing that the opportunity has been missed to provide more certainty to reunite families separated by travel restrictions, to give sunseekers the confidence to book ahead for their summer getaway and to help businesses across the country that have had their exporting ambitions placed on hold by the pandemic.’
And Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents major carriers, said: ‘Today’s announcement does not provide the clarity we were seeking on the roadmap back towards normality.’
Clive Wratten, chief executive of trade body the Business Travel Association, added: ‘Today’s announcement from the Prime Minister is beyond disappointing.’
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, (pictured) said news was disappointing and the opportunity was missed to provide certainty to reunite families separated by travel restrictions
Mr Johnson said the global travel taskforce led by Grant Shapps will set out more detail later this week on how the traffic light system will work.
The framework published by the Government last night said it wants to get foreign travel going again ‘as soon as possible’.
However, it said that it is still ‘too soon to know what is possible’.
It said: ‘Taking into account the latest situation with variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, we will confirm in advance whether non-essential international travel can resume on May 17, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction.’
People should ‘not book summer holidays abroad until the picture is clearer’. It confirmed the foreign travel ban will be replaced with a ‘traffic light’ system.
But it said it was ‘too early to say’ which countries may make the green list.
Those coming back from ‘red’ countries would have to quarantine in a hotel for ten days, while arrivals from ‘amber’ destinations will have to self-isolate at home.
However, in a boost for people fully vaccinated by summer, the document suggested testing and self-isolation rules under the ‘green’ and ‘amber’ stages could be relaxed for them.
Ministers are discussing deals for ‘vaccine passports’ so bans can be eased for some countries
Ministers are in talks with other governments about deals for ‘vaccine passports’ so restrictions can be eased further for them.
It came as health minister Edward Argar confirmed travellers will have to pay for tests under the new traffic light system.
Even for countries designated green, travellers will have to take at least two or three pre-flight and post-arrival tests.
He said: ‘Testing at the moment for essential travel is paid for by the traveller and…I think that model is likely to continue.’ He also signalled that much pricier PCR tests would be demanded pre-departure for UK-bound passengers.