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Travel experts today insisted there is ‘no danger of an influx of disease’ into Britain after Boris Johnson warned that putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk a jump in cases from abroad.    

The Prime Minister has maintained Downing Street will be ‘cautious’ amid bitter Cabinet wrangling over how far to loosen the border restrictions ahead of the next stage of his roadmap out of Covid lockdown. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty are said to be among those pushing for quarantine-free states to be kept to an absolute minimum.

But other senior figures are urging a looser approach, insisting that with the outbreak under control in the UK and vaccines making strong progress the government has no right to keep curbing freedoms. 

Mr Johnson suggested he is siding with the dovish camp on a pre-election visit to Hartlepool this afternoon.  

‘We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,’ he told reporters.

‘I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.’     

The UK’s ‘green list’ is not expected to be revealed until Friday, leaving millions of eager British holidaymakers in limbo as they wonder whether trips will be possible.

But travel industry insiders have dismissed Mr Johnson’s fears, with Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, saying there is ‘absolutely no danger of any influx of disease into the UK’ with the Government’s current hurdles in place.    

He told MailOnline: ‘The reason why testing has to be done by every passenger pre-departure to the UK, and after arriving here, is to help weed out any infections or variants. There have been very few cases or variants in recent weeks since these measures were put in place. 

‘The Prime Minister needs to focus on protecting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk in the travel and tourism sector, and open up overseas travel safely, and progressively, from May 17. ‘

Mr Charles said a balance can be struck between health needs and economic priorities, adding: ‘Other countries are restarting safely, so should we.’

Boris Johnson is today facing pressure from ministers to expand the travel 'green list' and give millions of Britons hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. Pictured: A beach in Malaga, Spain

Boris Johnson is today facing pressure from ministers to expand the travel 'green list' and give millions of Britons hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. Pictured: A beach in Malaga, Spain

Boris Johnson is today facing pressure from ministers to expand the travel ‘green list’ and give millions of Britons hopes of a holiday abroad this summer. Pictured: A beach in Malaga, Spain

On a visit to Hartlepool today, Boris Johnson poured cold water on holidays hopes, warning putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk an ‘influx of disease’ 

He added: ‘US citizens who are fully-jabbed are now able to travel without onerous restrictions or quarantines once they are back home. 

‘With 15 million British citizens now fully-jabbed, they too should be allowed to travel after May 17 and not have to self-isolate on their return.’

Meanwhile, Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, called on destinations used by business travellers not to be overlooked.  

He said: ‘The BTA is watching closely for the green and amber traffic light countries. Whilst we all look forward to a holiday, it’s vital for the UK economy that business travel destinations are included on the green list as soon as it is safe to do so.’  

Noel Josephides, director of AITO, the Specialist Travel Association, said the Government’s ‘latest series of turncoat measures’ are ‘difficult to comprehend in the light of its hugely successful vaccination programme.’

EU set to open up to UK holidaymakers 

EU states are set to open their borders to holidaying Brits who have been fully vaccinated. 

Under current restrictions, only people from seven countries, including Australia and Singapore, are allowed to enter the bloc for non-essential reasons. 

The commission’s new proposals would extend that to foreign citizens who have been fully vaccinated or are from countries with a ‘good epidemiological situation’.

People arriving from the UK, Russia and a number of other countries would be able to meet the new criteria, according to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, US citizens might not.

‘The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,’ an EU statement said.

‘This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. In addition, the Commission proposes to raise… the threshold related to the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted.’

To limit the risk of importing new coronavirus variants, the Commission also offered a new ’emergency brake’ that would introduce swift travel restrictions for countries where the situation deteriorates.

EU member states are due to start discussing the proposal tomorrow.

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He said: ‘The PM says that “no-one wants another influx of this disease” – certainly correct – but this is the same PM who has let hundreds of thousands of people into the UK over the past 14 months, including long before the vaccine was available, without a working test and trace system. 

‘We seem to have the full gamut of variants already in the UK; this is very much bolting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

‘Those travelling abroad, either for business (as I am currently doing), visiting friends and family, or on holiday, will of course need to follow the mantra of face, space, hands, that we are now well used to. 

‘With commonsense, there should be no/minimal problems; it is in everyone’s best interests to ensure that they take care to protect themselves, their friends and family.’

The comments came as the EU unveiled plans to let vaccinated Brits in for holidays.

Brussels has offered hope for getaways with proposals for easing border rules for those who have had jabs and from countries with low infection rates.  

Gibraltar and Malta might be on the ‘green list’, but much of Europe and the US could remain out of bounds due to fears over variant strains.

Portugal is one country that could be added, with advocates saying infections and the risk of variants is now very low there.  

However, a cross-party group of MPs has insisted that holidays should be discouraged even once they become legal in a fortnight’s time.  

Meanwhile, Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French tried to strike a more positive note about the prospects for later in the summer, saying there is ‘great progress’ in preparing destinations such as Portugal and Spain for the return of holidaymakers. 

The Government is expected to announce as early as this week the first countries that Britons can visit without having to quarantine – but the list is only believed to include a handful of destinations.

The so-called ‘green list’ will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe – will be announced before the end of this month.

For much of the country, the half-term break starts on May 31.

Under the traffic-light system for foreign travel, those returning from green countries will not need to quarantine but will have to take two Covid tests – one before they return to the UK, which can be either a lateral flow or PCR test, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive back.

Under the traffic-light system for foreign travel, those returning from green countries will not need to quarantine but will have to take two Covid tests – one before they return to the UK, which can be either a lateral flow or PCR test, and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive back.

Those who return from countries designated as either amber or red will still have to quarantine, either at home or in a hotel, and have three compulsory tests. Government officials are debating whether to stick to previous policy plans of having all children under 11 exempt from having to take the tests.

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month (Gibraltar pictured)

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month (Gibraltar pictured)

Families are set to get the go-ahead to take summer holidays in some popular European hotspots before the end of the month (Gibraltar pictured)

Sources say the so-called 'green list' will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe

Sources say the so-called 'green list' will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe

Sources say the so-called ‘green list’ will be updated every three weeks, raising the prospect that new countries – including popular destinations in Europe

The majority of European countries are expected to be given amber status this week, but there is optimism that some will turn green when the list is next updated.

The ban on overseas holidays will end on May 17, along with the threat of fines for attempting to travel without a permitted reason.

But Cabinet ministers are understood to be privately urged the Prime Minister overrule Mr Hancock Prof Whitty’s timid approach.

The pair are said to be pushing Mr Johnson to limit the number of countries on the ‘green list’ to a ‘tiny’ group.  

One government source told the Times: ‘You’ve got the usual hawks on the health side like Matt Hancock and Chris Whitty who are more cautious.’ 

However another cabinet minister told the paper they were attempting to step in and increase the number of countries on the list.

They said: ‘The government has no right to take people’s freedoms away. It did it because we were in an emergency but these rights don’t belong to the government.’

Bank of England ‘to upgrade growth forecasts’ 

Britain’s hugely successful vaccination rollout is helping the economy recover from the coronavirus recession faster than expected, the Bank of England will declare this week.

The Bank is set to hike its forecasts for the UK economy on Thursday as the vaccination programme and easing of lockdown help boost Britain’s recovery. 

In its last update in February the Bank predicted that GDP would grow by 5 per cent this year, and 7.25 per cent in 2022 after GDP plunged 9.8 per cent in 2020.

It predicted unemployment would peak at 7.8 per cent after the furlough ends, but the scheme was subsequently extended at the Budget in March.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said: ‘It looks highly likely that the Bank of England will revise significantly up its GDP growth forecast for the UK economy in 2021, although it may party offset this by lowering expected growth in 2022, and also markedly its unemployment projections.’  

The EY Item Club believes growth could surge to 6.8 per cent in 2021, which would be the best year of growth since the Second World War.

It has also slashed it forecast for peak unemployment to 5.8 per cent. 

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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised the ‘chopping and changing’ of the travel corridors list introduced last summer, as he said he will ‘wait and see’ what the Government announces on plans to restart international travel.

‘We need to be very careful. I think it’s clear that the virus is increasing in some countries around the world, so we have to be very, very careful,’ he told reporters during a campaign visit to Lewisham.

‘What we can’t have is a repeat of last summer, where the lists were chopping and changing on a daily or even weekly basis.

‘So I’ll wait and see what the Government has to say but I think we have to be very careful and very cautious.’ 

Under current EU restrictions, only people from seven countries, including Australia and Singapore, are allowed to enter the bloc for non-essential reasons.

The commission’s new proposals would extend that to foreign citizens who have been fully vaccinated or are from countries with a ‘good epidemiological situation’.

People arriving from the UK, Russia and a number of other countries would be able to meet the new criteria, according to data provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, US citizens might not.

‘The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,’ an EU statement said.

‘This could be extended to vaccines having completed the WHO emergency use listing process. In addition, the Commission proposes to raise… the threshold related to the number of new COVID-19 cases used to determine a list of countries from which all travel should be permitted.’

To limit the risk of importing new coronavirus variants, the Commission also offered a new ’emergency brake’ that would introduce swift travel restrictions for countries where the situation deteriorates.

EU member states are due to start discussing the proposal tomorrow.

Mr French suggested that Thomas Cook is hoping for a much broader opening by the peak summer season. 

‘When the holidays proper start at the end of June, we are expecting most of the countries that the UK goes on holiday to – Europe particularly – to be open,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘We are expecting Portugal, Spain, Greece, Croatia and so forth to be open, it would be nice if Turkey was open.

‘When we look at what is going on in those countries, both in terms of infection rates and how they are preparing for holidaymakers, I think there is great progress being made.’

Foreign holidays look set to resume this month as the Government prepares to reveal the 'green list' next week. Ministers are poised to decide next week that foreign holidays can resume from May 17, the next stage at which restrictions ease

Foreign holidays look set to resume this month as the Government prepares to reveal the 'green list' next week. Ministers are poised to decide next week that foreign holidays can resume from May 17, the next stage at which restrictions ease

Foreign holidays look set to resume this month as the Government prepares to reveal the ‘green list’ next week. Ministers are poised to decide next week that foreign holidays can resume from May 17, the next stage at which restrictions ease

Meanwhile, the all-party parliamentary group on Covid (APPG) today issued a report recommending holidays abroad should be discouraged – even once they are made legal.

In their report, the cross-party group of MPs said: ‘The UK government should discourage all international leisure travel to prevent the importation of new variants into the UK, in order to reduce the risk of a third wave and further lockdowns.

‘This recommendation should be implemented immediately and reviewed on a quarterly basis.’

The group have insisted the Government keep restrictions and continue to prop-up the travel industry – who could lose billions of pounds if foreign holidays are banned for a second successive year.  

It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday warned that some measures such as masks will be in place into the summer.

While he insisted the UK is ‘turning the corner’ as Covid recedes, he stressed ‘some safeguards’ may remain to ward off a potential further wave of the virus.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘We want to get to the position at the end of June when we can get life back as close to normal as possible, but there will still need to be some safeguards in place.’

Mr Raab later refused to deny there were tensions within the cabinet about easing foreign travel, telling Times Radio: ‘It’s absolutely right that we discuss and debate those issues very carefully. We want to open up, that’s our instinct as a country.

‘We want to be having the travel for social reasons and for economic reasons.

‘On the other hand, obviously it goes without saying we want to make sure we can do it safely. So I think that’s the right approach. It’s a balance.’ 

Boris Johnson reveals there is a ‘good chance’ current social distancing rules will be SCRAPPED on June 21 

Boris Johnson today revealed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21. 

The Prime Minister said he hopes it will be possible to axe the existing one-metre plus rule when the nation reaches the final step in his lockdown exit roadmap. 

His comments came as hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’. 

Ditching the one-metre plus rule will allow hospitality venues as well as places like theatres to open at full capacity for the first time in more than a year. 

It was reported overnight that one-way systems, screens and mask-wearing while moving around could remain in place in hospitality settings beyond June 21 but customer numbers will no longer be limited. 

Audiences in theatres and cinemas will have to wear face coverings during performances, while there will be strict guidance on ventilation and staggered entry, according to The Times. 

Boris Johnson today revealed there is a 'good chance' that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21

Boris Johnson today revealed there is a 'good chance' that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21

Boris Johnson today revealed there is a ‘good chance’ that current social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21

Hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading from June 21 is 'critical' and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can 'come off life support'

Hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading from June 21 is 'critical' and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can 'come off life support'

Hospitality bosses said a return to unrestricted trading from June 21 is ‘critical’ and will mean that pubs, bars and restaurants can ‘come off life support’

Speaking during a visit to Hartlepool, Mr Johnson said: ‘As things stand, and the way things are going, with the vaccine rollout going the way that it is – we have done 50 million jabs as I speak to you today, quarter of the adult population, one in four have had two jabs.

‘You are seeing the results of that really starting to show up in the epidemiology.

‘I think that we will be able to go ahead, feels like May 17 is going to be good.

‘But it also looks to me as though June 21 we’ll be able to say social distancing as we currently have to do it, the one-metre plus, I think we have got a good chance of being able to dispense with the one-metre plus from June 21.

‘That is still dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet, we have got to look at the epidemiology as we progress, we have got to look at where we get to with the disease. But that’s what it feels like to me right now.’

Mr Johnson’s comments came after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday said ‘some safeguards’ would have to stay in place beyond the June 21 date, such as continued use of masks and physical distancing.  

Last month, Government scientific advisers said the public should be able to remove face masks over the summer as vaccines do the heavy lifting in controlling Covid-19 – but they cautioned that masks and possibly other measures may be needed next autumn and winter if cases surge. 

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the industry would need to ‘wait to see the full detail of plans as any restrictions in venues will continue to impact revenue and business viability’.

She added: ‘A return to unrestricted trading on June 21 is critical and will mean hospitality businesses (can) come off life support and be viable for the first time in almost 16 months.

‘We urge the Government to confirm reopening dates and these plans at the earliest opportunity, which will boost confidence and allow companies to step up planning and bring staff back.’

Mr Johnson said a decision on scrapping the current social distancing rules will be 'dependent on the data, we can't say it categorically yet'. Diners are pictured in Soho in central London on April 30

Mr Johnson said a decision on scrapping the current social distancing rules will be 'dependent on the data, we can't say it categorically yet'. Diners are pictured in Soho in central London on April 30

Mr Johnson said a decision on scrapping the current social distancing rules will be ‘dependent on the data, we can’t say it categorically yet’. Diners are pictured in Soho in central London on April 30

The PM said the success of the UK's vaccination programme is 'really starting to show up in the epidemiology'. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1

The PM said the success of the UK's vaccination programme is 'really starting to show up in the epidemiology'. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1

The PM said the success of the UK’s vaccination programme is ‘really starting to show up in the epidemiology’. Soho in central London is pictured on May 1 

A spokesman for the UK Cinema Association indicated that the organisation hopes face coverings will not be a continued requirement.

He said: ‘We strongly believe that our exemplary record on safety – with not a single case of Covid traced back to a UK venue – and our ability to manage the movement of cinema-goers in modern, highly ventilated indoor environments offer ample evidence that any relaxation from June 21 can be undertaken safely without the need for further ongoing restrictions, including any requirement for face coverings.’

A Cabinet Office spokesman pointed back to the wording in the PM’s roadmap which states that the Government ‘will complete a review of social distancing measures and other long-term measures that have been put in place to limit transmission’.

The review’s findings ‘will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which rules on one-metre-plus, face masks and other measures may be lifted’.

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