Shapps: Covid figures ‘look good’ for return of foreign holidays

Neil Lancefield and Sam Blewett, PA Transport Correspondent

Domestic coronavirus statistics “look good” to enable the resumption of foreign holidays next month, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Overseas leisure travel could resume for people in England on May 17 under Boris Johnson’s road map for easing restrictions.

Mr Shapps told Sky News: “I have to say that so far the data does continue to look good from a UK perspective, notwithstanding those concerns about where people might be travelling to and making sure we’re protected from the disease being reimported.”

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He added that he will set out which countries fall into the “green”, “amber” and “red” categories under the new risk-based traffic light system “towards the beginning of May”.

That will determine what testing and quarantine requirements travellers will face when they return from various destinations.

In terms of the categorisation of Spain, the most popular foreign holiday destination for UK tourists, Mr Shapps told Times Radio: “Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer to that because the Joint Biosecurity Centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can’t do that until a bit nearer the time.

“So we will need to wait and see.”

Spain’s tourism minister, Fernando Valdes Verelst, told an international summit held by the World Travel & Tourism Council in Mexico that the country will welcome back tourists – including those from the UK – in June.

The European Union has previously set out plans for coronavirus vaccine certificates that could be used by UK holidaymakers this summer.

Digital Green Certificates will be accepted as evidence that a person has had a Covid-19 jab, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus, according to the European Commission’s proposal.

Mr Verelst said: “Spain is going to be ready in June to use this digital certificate. We are doing a pilot programme in May, in all our 46 airports.

“We are going to give all these travellers that certainty. Spain is going to be ready in June to tell all travellers worldwide that you can visit us.”

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Manuel Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s ambassador to the UK, said holidaymakers could be able to visit the country next month.

He told Sky News the country is “hopeful” that “from the middle of May, regular mobility between the UK and Portugal and vice versa can be established”.

Asked if Britons who have not been vaccinated can travel to Portugal, he added: “Yes, that’s the idea, that’s what we wanted, to as much as possible go back to the regime that existed before the pandemic.

“It’s in that direction we are working and that is possible.”

Mr Shapps said the NHS app is being worked on to become a health certificate for UK holidaymakers to use for international travel.

He told Sky News: “In terms of vaccine certification, I can confirm we are working on an NHS application; actually it will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you’ve had a vaccine or you’ve had testing.

“I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised, as that’s the way forward.

“Actually, I’m chairing a meeting of the G7 secretaries of state for transport, my equivalents from America and Canada and all the G7 countries, next week on exactly this subject.”