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As coronavirus case rates and deaths continue to decline in the UK following stringent lockdown measures, the prime minister has announced his “roadmap” for how restrictions will be gradually eased this summer.
The reopening depends on four tests: that the vaccination rollout continues at pace; evidence showing that vaccines are effective; that infection rates do not cause increased hospitalisations; and that the assessment of the risks is not changed by new variants.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the full plan to parliament on Monday 22 February.
What travel rules were announced on 22 February?
Johnson unveiled a road map for lifting lockdown restrictions in England, with a “cautious” plan that will see families reunited and children returning to schools.
Under the plan, all schools in England will reopen on 8 March, while up to six people or two households will meet outdoors from 29 March.
From April 12 at the earliest, self-contained accommodation in England can reopen for bookings from a single household, meaning staycations could be back on the cards.
The main date for the travel industry is 17 March, which is the earliest date international travel can restart; as well as the opening of hotels and B&Bs across England.
What has the government said about domestic holidays?
In England, trips to self-contained accommodation can restart from 12 April, for one household.
It’s understood that this will include second homes, holiday homes and possibly campsites where there are no shared facilities.
The more mainstream travel industry in England, which would include hotels and B&Bs, can restart from 17 May, Johnson announced.
Meanwhile, the Welsh first minister told BBC Breakfast on 19 February that he was working with the Tourism Task Force in Wales in a bid to enable limited tourism by Easter – which this year is the weekend of 2-5 April.
“What we will work on with them is the possibility – and it is only that – of some limited reopening around Easter of self-contained accommodation only. Places where people don’t mix with other people, where there aren’t shared facilities,” said Mark Drakeford. “That is how we began the reopening of tourism in Wales.”
However, there are concerns that allowing travel too soon could see “big movements” across the UK, enabling infection rates to rise again.
What about international travel?
The prime minister signalled that international travel can restart from 17 May at the earliest.
Leisure travel both domestically and internationally has been banned since the start of January. Travel is currently allowed for a tight set of circumstances, including business and for compassionate reasons, and the government has repeatedly warned people that holidays are illegal.
The tentative reopening date follows weeks of speculation from the industry as to when international travel might be allowed again.
In response to the opening date, sun-starved Brits rushed to book summer holidays, with travel companies reporting huge bounces in bookings.
Will rapid testing help?
Boris Johnson has proposed using rapid coronavirus testing as a way to gradually reopen venues across the UK – a move that could also help open up domestic travel.
The suggested measure has been backed by the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19.
Dr David Nabarro said he believed rapid testing could indeed play a crucial role in reopening nightclubs, theatres and other venues that have been forced to shut down during the pandemic.
“The secret to getting life back to some degree of normality for most of us is going to be the availability of really reliable, super-quick tests,” Dr Nabarro told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“That will make movement so, so much easier.”
The WHO special envoy also said that vaccination certificates could also be required for international travel and “activities where you’re actually going into a different jurisdiction”.
However, he said, “for moving around [domestically], it will be rapid tests”.
What about vaccine passports?
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has sought to make clear that the British government is not looking into providing government-backed “vaccine passports”, but is instead looking to find a way to ensure that travellers can obtain “certificates” proving they have received the jab, if required.
The vaccines minister suggested the government was aware of the possibility that countries might require certificates proving travellers have received a vaccine jab.
He said that if that was a requirement, the government wants to “make it as easy as possible” for people to obtain such a document.
He said the effort would likely be similar to receiving a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Closer to home, Mr Zahawi said that UK cinemas, theatres and other venues will be free to demand proof of Covid-19 vaccination before allowing people to enter, despite the government ruling out a “vaccine passport” scheme of its own.
Mr Zahawi said it was “up to businesses” to determine what rules to introduce.