April RoachFri, 5 February 2021, 7:50 am
Following a scientific review of data on the UK vaccination programme and the impact of the lockdown on reducing infections and hospitalisations, ministers will gather in the Commons on February 22 to establish a plan for taking the country out of lockdown.
Government sources told the Times that there were “tentative” plans to prioritise outdoor activities such as golf and tennis and limited social gatherings outside, for the first phase out of lockdown.
Outdoors markets are expected to reopen before high street shops.
The Foreign Office Department for Transport and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) are working on a certification system that would demand travellers prove they have been inoculated against Covid-19 as a condition of entry, reports the Times.
According to the newspaper, Government officials told the Greek Ministry of Tourism that Britain’s vaccination rollout is successfully advancing enough for British holidaymakers to make the country’s summer season.
Earlier this week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “optimistic” about the prospect of people being able to enjoy a holiday in the summer.
“I’m optimistic that we will have a great British summer,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Wednesday.
“The challenge we all still have is we have to keep control of the virus, so we have got to monitor progress.
“But the vaccine rollout is going well, the vaccines clearly work and so this is really, really good progress.”
Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN World Tourism Organisation’s secretary-general, previously told the Global Tourism Crisis Committee in Madrid: “Vaccines must be part of a wider, coordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel”.
The leaders of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have called for the introduction of certificates which would designate if a traveller has been vaccinated or not.
Meanwhile ministers have been accused of being too slow to act after it was disclosed new coronavirus quarantine hotels will not come into force until mid-February.
The DHSC said that, from February 15, travellers returning to the UK from “red list” countries will have to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.
The Government originally announced last week it would be tightening the rules following the emergence of mutant new strains of the virus in South Africa and Brazil.
Labour said it was “beyond comprehension” that it was taking so long to get the scheme up and running.
The DHSC said it was working “at pace” to ensure designated quarantine hotels would be ready for British nationals returning from high-risk countries on the UK travel ban list from the middle of the month.
Officials said a commercial specification was issued on Thursday evening to hotels near air and sea ports asking for proposals on how they can support the delivery of quarantine facilities ahead of formal contracts being awarded.
But Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Government was again doing “too little, too late”.
“It is beyond comprehension that these measures won’t even start until February 15,” he said.
“We are in a race against time to protect our borders against new Covid strains.
“Yet hotel quarantine will come in to force more than 50 days after the South African strain was discovered.
“Even when these measures eventually begin, they will not go anywhere near far enough to be effective in preventing further variants.”