The Secretary of State Grant Shapps chaired the first meeting of the new Global Travel Taskforce to discuss the best way of restarting international travel in a safe way.
The newly-formed Global Travel Taskforce, made up of representatives across government departments, key travel industry bodies, transport operators and travel agencies, has met to discuss developing a risk-based framework to enable international travel to re-open safely.
This will include how existing measures, such as the government’s testing and isolation schemes, could be used to facilitate travel while managing the risk of imported cases and ‘variants of concern’.
The task force will provide a report to the Prime Minister on 12 April, which will be used to help the government determine when and how to resume safe international travel no earlier than 17 May 2021.
The decision on when international travel can resume will depend on:
the global and domestic epidemic status
the prevalence and locations of any ‘variants of concern’
the progress of vaccine rollouts here and abroad
what more the government has learned about the efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths
All measures will be kept under review, and people should continue to follow national restrictions for England introduced on 6 January 2021, meaning everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps commented:
“The UK’s leading vaccine rollout has created a wave of optimism and, as a result, the Global Travel Taskforce is charged with exploring safe and secure ways to restart international travel when the time is right.
By planning carefully considered steps, we will protect the excellent progress made through our vaccine and advanced testing programme, whilst ensuring we are ready to kick-start our travel sector when current travel restrictions can be lifted.
We will not only consider the progress of our world-beating domestic vaccine programme but also need to review where destination countries have got to with both vaccine and testing capabilities.”
The government has already put in place a range of tough measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the border, including the:
Introduction of pre-departure testing for all international arrivals
Requirement for those travelling back to the UK from a ‘red list’ country to self-isolate in a government-approved facility for a period of 10 days while there is a heightened risk of transmission from these areas
All international arrivals must also take a COVID-19 test on both day 2 and day 8 of their self-isolation period – with genome sequencing included within the cost of the testing bundle.
Passengers arriving from ‘non-red list’ countries still have the option to pay for a private test and shorten their self-isolation period by up to half through Test to Release, on receipt of a negative COVID-19 result.