Boris Johnson on course to give the green light to trips abroad under a traffic light system
Boris Johnson is on course to give the green light to holidays abroad from May 17 – as the Government was buoyed by a triple dose of good news on vaccines.
The Prime Minister will announce that the near-blanket ban on foreign travel will be replaced by a traffic-light system, paving the way for holidays overseas in six weeks.
Countries will be assessed according to their vaccination programmes, infection rates and prevalence of known variants and ability to identify them.
While only a handful of popular European destinations are expected to be given ‘green’ status, it will likely open the way to trips to countries including the Maldives, Gibraltar, Malta and Israel.
Foreign holidays could be just six weeks away as the Prime Minister prepares to give green light to traffic light system
With the potential for circumstances to change, the first list of ‘green’ countries will not be announced until next month.
However, even travel to and from approved countries will require at least three Covid tests for each holidaymaker – one before departure and two on return – leaving families facing extra bills potentially running into hundreds of pounds.
Renewed hope that millions of Britons will be able to take a summer holiday abroad comes as Britain’s vaccination programme continues to make huge strides.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that an efficiency drive at the Oxford Biomedica factory, encouraged by Mr Johnson, will allow the production of 5 million extra doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine a year, making it the most efficient producer of that vaccine in the world.
In North Wales, a so-called ‘fill and finish’ plant, where the vaccine is decanted into vials for distribution, is in the process of increasing the number of production lines, while the European boss of pharma giant Moderna said 200,000 doses of their vaccine will soon begin arriving in the UK every week.
With the rate of second doses accelerating, using supplies of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, almost all the Moderna doses will be administered to those aged under 50.
In each of the last four days more second doses have been given than first doses, allowing the Government to hail the milestone of achieving more than 5 million second doses. That means more than one in ten adults have now had both shots.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it represented fresh evidence ‘of progress along the road to freedom’. Meanwhile, the number of first doses reached 31.4 million, just shy of 60 per cent of all adults.
The stream of positive news came as:
Daily Covid deaths fell to ten, the lowest number since September 14, as hospitals admissions fell by 23 per cent week-on-week and positive tests were down more than 28 per cent over the same period;
A new Anti-Virals Taskforce is being set up to develop innovative coronavirus treatments, sources told this newspaper, with the creation of a simple pill to ward off the serious symptoms of the virus top of its list of aims;
A single-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is expected to be approved for use by Britain’s medical regulator ‘within weeks’, according to Government insiders;
Ministers are set to launch a door-to-door vaccination push to help boost take-up among ethnic minorities, following the success of pilot schemes in Luton and Bradford where everyone over the age of 18 in a house was offered jabs at the same time;
Oxford University and the Office for National Statistics are to examine the low take-up as early evidence suggested ethnic groups who have shunned vaccinations may have started to see higher Covid infection and death rates;
As Mr Johnson praised the role of church volunteers in the vaccine rollout, police were criticised for breaking up a Good Friday service at a South London Catholic church;
The Government is preparing to launch a PR offensive to encourage Britons to have staycations in the UK cities which have been badly hit by lockdown and the near-disappearance of overseas travellers;
Tens of millions of pints of beer are being delivered to the nation’s pubs ahead of the next easing of lockdown in eight days’ time;
Families pleaded with Ministers to further clarify the rules on care home visits after April 12 to avoid a postcode lottery;
France was plunged back into a near-full lockdown with tougher Covid-19 restrictions being enforced across much of Europe.
Downing Street hopes to reach its target of offering a vaccine to all 32 million people in the first nine priority groups this week, earlier than its target date of April 15.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: ‘We have made huge strides over the past few months with our vaccine programme and everyone in the country has made huge sacrifices to get us to this stage in our recovery from Covid-19.
‘We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.’
Meanwhile, he used an Easter message to pay tribute to the ‘church leaders and congregations that have stepped up to support us all in these very challenging times’, adding: ‘But, as ever, the arrival of Easter brings with it new hope.’
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