Nadia Brooks | Graeme Paton, Times report::
Covid passports are being readied for use from May 17, it has emerged. The Department for Transport wants official certification that British travellers can use to show at overseas borders and is asking for the scheme to be in place by the date Boris Johnson set to lift his ban on foreign holidays.
The news comes as MPs called for families to receive free or subsidised NHS coronavirus tests to allow them to travel.
The UK is likely to be one of the first foreign nations whose citizens are allowed into Europe once borders are opened to holidaymakers again. EU officials are planning to allow entry to visitors from countries that have had a robust vaccination programme.
It comes as new figures today showed that coronavirus was no longer the leading cause of death in both England and Wales in March for the first time since October. Office for National Statistics data shows that Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in both countries in March, behind Alzheimer’s and ischaemic heart diseases, accounting for 9.2 per cent of all deaths registered in England and 6.3 per cent in Wales.
Diplomats from the EU’s 27 member states met on Monday to discuss plans to start lifting their blanket entry ban and are said to be looking at June.
However, it is believed that Spain has already told Downing Street it is lobbying hard for curbs on UK travellers to be dropped as soon as possible.
Fernando Valdes, Spain’s tourism minister, today said the country is “desperate” to welcome Britons this summer.
He told Sky News: “We are desperate to welcome to you… We will be ready here in Spain and we also think things with the vaccination scheme in the UK are going pretty well so hopefully we will see this summer the restart of holidays.”
Valdes, who said that Spain has been having “constant conversations” with the UK government over travel, added that vaccine certificates will help boost tourism to the nation, raising hopes for summer holidays abroad.
Countries could even defy Brussels and open up their borders to tourists regardless. A travel industry source told The Sun: “We don’t think many will exclude the UK this summer.”
Greece already said it is ready to welcome British holidaymakers.
MPs have called on ministers to consider giving holidaymakers free or subsidised NHS coronavirus tests because the high cost will prevent many families from travelling abroad this summer, according to MPs.
The cross-party transport committee says in its report to be published today that there may be a case for reallocating part of the NHS’s “extensive testing capabilities” to support the resumption of international travel.
It said that the requirement for people to pay for their own PCR tests when arriving into the UK this summer, including returning British holidaymakers, would make travel unaffordable for people on average wages.
It claimed that the cost, about £500 for a family of four, was more than the price of flights to some destinations.
Ministers said that one PCR test would be required up to two days after arrival in the UK from green countries, including returning British holidaymakers. Two PCR tests and up to ten days’ quarantine will be needed for arrivals from amber and red nations.
The “gold standard” PCR tests, which are analysed in laboratories, are viewed as essential to track the possible importation of variants.
Private PCR tests can cost more than £100 each, although The Times reported that some were being offered for £60.
•Heathrow has blocked extra flights from India before it is added to the red list from 4am tomorrow. More than 2,000 people were due to arrive on charter flights before the restriction, when all arrivals will have to quarantine in a hotel for ten days. The BBC reported that the airport feared that extra flights would lead to unsustainable queues at border control.
The Telegraph & Times.