UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to reassure the public that summer holidays are still a possibility, a day after warning that the government may not meet a May 17 goal to reopen its borders.
While many popular holiday destinations are struggling with surges in Covid-19 cases, this doesn’t mean the government has given up on next month’s target, Johnson said. He had cautioned earlier that the government will need to track health data and make an assessment on non-essential travel closer to the date.
“We will be saying as much as we can as soon as we can about international travel,” Johnson said in a media-pool interview. “I know how impatient people are to book their holidays if they possibly can, but we just have to be prudent at this stage.”
Airline and airport executives had slammed Johnson for telling Britons not to plan international trips, accusing him of a lack of clarity and of ushering in more financial harm to the industry. Summer generates a major chunk of revenue, with this year’s season taking on greater importance given carriers, along with hotels and restaurants, already lost last year’s season to the virus.
Executives also complained that a requirement for arriving passengers to take two coronavirus tests, even from green-lit countries, would drive up the cost of a vacation.
EasyJet Plc Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren called for cheaper lateral flow tests, which are less accurate but give quicker results, to be used instead of the gold-standard PCR test to avoid pricing families out of holidays.
Johnson said that the government is looking into this option. “We are going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible,” he said.
Travellers from green countries will still have to take virus tests before departing and after arriving, Johnson’s office said. Quarantine and self-isolation rules will apply to passengers entering the country from places on the red and amber lists.
Some airlines are pinning their hopes for the summer season on trans-Atlantic travel.
Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss told Bloomberg Television that the UK and US governments were having a “fruitful dialogue” on the issue. He added that restarting UK-US flights would allow Virgin Atlantic to break even on cash flow and return to profitability by 2022.
Travelers from green countries will still have to take virus tests before departing and after arriving, Johnson’s office said. Quarantine and self-isolation rules will apply to passengers entering the country from places on the red and amber lists.
Health Minister Nadhim Zahawi said in an interview with Sky News that vaccine passports would not be needed to enter pubs when customers are allowed inside again next month, though the government backs the plan and says it will be important for international travel.