United Kingdom to announce new global travel rules

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The UK has set a tentative date of May 17 to relaunch foreign travel, now banned except for a handful of permitted reasons.

"Taking into account the latest situation with (coronavirus) variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, we will confirm in advance whether non-essential worldwide travel can resume on 17th May, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction", a government review said.

But at his latest Downing Street coronavirus briefing, Mr Johnson said: "Obviously we are hopeful that we can get going from 17 May, we are hopeful." but he went on to warn people to "be realistic" and said: "We're not there yet". Conservative legislator Graham Brady said vaccine passports would be "intrusive, costly and unnecessary". Countries on the amber list would require self-isolation.

Health minister Edward Argar said as cases surge on the European continent, Britain would have to be "very careful" as it considered further restrictions.

Once travel resumes, Britain will rank countries on a traffic-light system as green, yellow or red based on their level of vaccinations, infections and worrying new virus variants.

Britons are now banned by law from going on holiday overseas under the extraordinary powers Parliament has given the government to fight the pandemic.

The document stated it is "too early to say" which countries will be on the green list.

He added: "Now that a safe, scientifically-backed process has been agreed upon, a clearer timeline for the return to global travel is needed".

"I wish I could give you more on that, I know that people watching will want to know exactly what they can do from May 17, but we're not there yet", Johnson said.

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A certificate could cover whether someone had received a vaccine, had a negative coronavirus test or had contracted and recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months. Britain has recorded nearly 127,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also set to launch their own similar pathways to open up their economies.

The prime minister's statement at the coronavirus press conference also confirmed that from Monday, April 12, 'we will move to Step Two of our roadmap - re-opening shops, gyms, zoos, holiday campsites, personal care services like hairdressers and, of course, beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds'.

From Thursday, those living in England will be able to access two free rapid virus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread.

However, there are hopes it "still could be a strong summer" said Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of Easyjet, although "every day that goes that we don't get clarity on the exact date makes it more challenging".

The government said vaccine passports were all but unavoidable, since many countries were certain to demand proof of Covid-19 status for entry.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged people to take up the offer, saying "getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly".

The lateral flow tests, which are being widely used in schools, can provide results in as little as 30 minutes, with the two-tests-per-week available from 9 April.

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