Hancock says summer travel “may be possible”
Despite some reports saying that travel will be illegal until August in the papers this weekend, the mood from ministers is actually starting to appear more positive. Matt Hancock appeared on This Morning on Monday morning and when questioned if there was any hope of international travel this summer said that “there may well be. I wouldn’t rule that out. It’s too early to say” but “the doors are not shut”.
This was also echoed by Minister Oliver Dowden who said “the intention of the Travel Taskforce is to open up travel safely.”
I was dismayed to see that Mr. Hancock said they would consider having a British vaccine “passport” for travel only if other countries required people to be vaccinated before entry. The government needs to be issuing them now, even with no legal holidays there are still people travelling for essential purposes that will be unable to prove their vaccinations easily due to lack of evidence. The cards you get have so little information, that many countries would rule them as inadmissible. He also quoted Greece as having said they may require this, which they didn’t. They just said that people who have been vaccinated could face less restrictions. So I think he was somewhat confused and actually meant if countries require proof of vaccination to allow fewer restrictions such as quarantine.
I also attended a virtual talk by Paul Charles, a travel consultant who seems to have good insight into the Travel Task Force. His thoughts on Friday were repeated in some of the papers this weekend, so it seems likely to be correct.
Here is the gist of the conversation:
- Traffic light system being considered and seems likely
- Travel likely to resume from 17 May in terms of holidays not being illegal
- Even those vaccinated would have to have a lateral flow test before coming to the UK (or could be on arrival). These are much cheaper at around £33, so affordable for most people.
- Hotel quarantine for red list countries is likely to continue for longer
- Amber countries are likely to require home quarantine, but hopefully, a shorter one which could even be as little as 3 days.
- Small number of countries to be on red list initially based on their cases, variants, and vaccination rates.
- Likely candidates for the green list include US, Gibraltar, some of the Caribbean, Iceland and Portugal and possibly some of the far east such as Singapore and Thailand.
- US expects to reopen between May & July. American Airlines said at the weekend that it plans to be flying all of its aircraft, including its fleet of long-haul 777 and 787 aircraft, by end of May. Unless international travel was to open up more, this is unlikely to be needed.
What do the travel industry think?
Trailfinders, the largest independently-owned travel company in the United Kingdom, have submitted their thoughts to the Task Force which contains some interesting points.
“By 16 May, which we hope will see the end of the travel ban, freedom to travel will have been substantially curtailed for over 14 months. With well over 50% of the UK’s adult population vaccinated, most especially all of the vulnerable, we must re-open travel: The world’s largest industry.
The GTT are undertaking a risk assessment and must allow for the immunisation benefit, which is the fundamental game changer. Zero risk is a fool’s mission, which can only result in inertia. We would ban cars, sport and even child birth if we didn’t accept some risk.
Does the vaccine stop transmission? In the absence of data to prove otherwise, we should surely take the optimistic view. Restrictions can always be re-imposed later if the vaccinated are found to transmit.”
It also calls for seven steps it believes the government to take. From what I am hearing, it sounds like 1 and 2 are unlikely at the moment.
1) Recognise and facilitate vaccine certificates: global adoption of the IATA Travel Pass, already well into development, will circumvent any alternative fragmented by diverse nations.
2) Remove travel restrictions for the vaccinated: Except red countries with variants of concern
3) For those not vaccinated: Green list destination allowed test 72 hours before returning home and no quarantine.
4) FCDO Advice: FCDO only to advise against travel to countries on the red list, or countries whose health services are failing to cope. This will resolve the serious issue that has existed for Travel Insurance since March 2020, which has left travellers vulnerable. This is a good point that has not been discussed much recently.
5) Under 18’s: To be treated as if they are vaccinated for the purpose of travel restrictions, so as not to impede family travel or separate families.
6) Lateral Flow Tests:
7) Joined up policy: consistent policy from devolved governments. I loved this part “to date it has felt as if countries are setting different policies simply because they can.” Totally agree with this. While I can understand dates being different due to local rates of infections, I could never see why it was safe in one part of the country to have so many people meet up, but a different number elsewhere.
Thailand tourism details confirmed for July & October reopenings
Last week I wrote about Thailand reopening to fully vaccinated international travellers from 1 July 2021 for the island of Phuket with no quarantine. This has now been agreed by the government providing their vaccination program goes according to plan. Details are still a little sketchy but it appears that you would have to fly in direct to Phuket from outside Thailand. While you can fly from the UK to Phuket usually, Qatar would have been one of the choices but is now not operating due to Qatar being on the red list. However, the chances are you could probably fly somewhere else nearby that allows transit and then fly onwards.
From October 2021, Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga, Koh Samui, Chonburi (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai will be open to vaccinated tourists quarantine-free.
You must stay a minimum of seven days in the initial destination, but then after that, you will be free to travel around Thailand.
All travellers will have to take a Covid-19 test on arrival at their hotel.
Chiravadee Khunsub, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) London said
“From July 1st quarantine will not be required for UK travellers visiting Phuket on the basis they’ve been fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19.
“Phuket has been Covid-19 free for 90 days so it is a safe choice for UK travellers looking to get away this summer.
“From October, five further popular destinations will reopen ahead of our peak season, ready to welcome winter sun travellers.”