a chair sitting in front of a body of water: The Government has set 17 May as the earliest possible

Free Covid-19 tests could help British holidaymakers fly abroad again

The i 9/04/2021 01:01:00 Nigel Morris
a chair sitting in front of a body of water: The Government has set 17 May as the earliest possible date for international journeys to start again (Photo: Getty/TASS/Valery Sharifulin) © Provided by The iThe Government has set 17 May as the earliest possible date for international journeys to start again (Photo: Getty/TASS/Valery Sharifulin)

Holidaymakers could be given free Covid-19 testing kits before they leave the country in a move to cut the cost of foreign travel when restrictions are eased in the summer.

On Friday the Government will set out its proposals for a traffic-light system, grading destinations around the world over the severity of the pandemic and the danger of importing mutant strains of the virus back into England.

Following research that travellers face paying up to £420 each for tests, ministers are preparing to allow them to prove they are Covid-free through a rapid lateral flow test instead of more expensive PCR swabs.

"It's an idea for cutting their costs and make it easier for holidaymakers, who could take the tests in their hotel rooms," a source told i.

The Government has set 17 May as the earliest possible date for international journeys to start again.

It will confirm early next month whether the ban on foreign travel will be lifted on that date.

Where could you go?

The full details of which country will be in which category of travel restrictions have not yet been published, but will be based on criteria such as how much of the population has been vaccinated, whether it has detected dangerous new Covid strains and how well it can sequence the genes of cases to monitor their spread.

Included in the green category are likely to be countries which are leading the way in the vaccine roll-out such as Israel, the US and possibly the United Arab Emirates. The Seychelles, where two-thirds of people have had a vaccine, could be a popular holiday destination for wealthy travellers.

Much of Europe is likely to start off on the amber list because of the relatively slow progress of the Continent's vaccine programme and the continued prevalence of Covid-19 infections.

Countries on the "Red List" will be those with large numbers of infections including new strains, such as Brazil and India. Heavy restrictions on these countries could stay in place for months.

Hugo Gye

Its "global travel taskforce" will on Friday set out details of its traffic light system, under which countries are divided into green, amber and red categories.

The risk of travel to those destinations will be assessed based on their vaccination rates, their levels of infection, the prevalence of "variants of concern" of the infection and their genomic sequencing capacity.

People returning from "Red List" nations will be required to spend 10 days in a "quarantine hotel" allocated by the Government and take PCR tests, while people coming back from "amber" nations would have to self-isolate at home for 10 days.

Travellers from "green" countries would still be required to be tested before departure, produce a negative test upon their return and take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

Details of which countries will be on which lists are not expected to be decided for several weeks, although sources said the initial number of "green" countries was likely to be "pretty limited" as ministers take a "very cautious approach".

The list of countries would be reviewed on a "rolling basis" to take account of changing circumstances, but the traffic light system will be formally reviewed on 28 June.


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