Boris urged to extend holiday ban to protect the UK from variants

Restrictions should stay in place to protect the UK from variants, MPs have warned (Picture: Getty/Reuters)

Restrictions on foreign holidays should be kept in place beyond May 17 in order to protect the UK from Covid-19 variants, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus urged the Government to ‘discourage all international leisure travel’.

The group described airport arrival halls as ‘a breeding ground for infection’ and claimed that the importation of new variants could ‘lead to further lockdowns, and inevitably, further loss of life’.

It recommended that passengers returning from green, amber and red countries under the new risk-based traffic light system do not mix.

Passengers’ documents should also be checked before they enter an arrival hall, where possible, so those being transported to quarantine facilities are moved ‘rapidly’, the group added.

In addition, it called for ‘adequate financial support’ to be provided to travel firms, and for a reversal to the reduction in funding for international research projects assisting the fight against the virus.

The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from May 17 as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions.

But the APPG wants the Government to ‘maintain curbs on international leisure travel’ beyond that date.

Lucy Moreton, professional officer for the Immigration Services Union, which represents border immigration and customs staff, told a hearing held by the group last month that around 100 people are trying to enter the UK each day with ‘fake’ certificates showing recent negative coronavirus tests.

FILE PHOTO: People queue to enter terminal 2, as tighter rules for international travellers start, at Heathrow Airport, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

The group described airport arrival halls as ‘a breeding ground for infection’ (Picture: Reuters)

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who chairs the APPG, said: ‘It is staggering that the Government is even contemplating encouraging overseas holidays when airports are already struggling to keep the virus and new variants at bay.

‘Urgent measures are needed to better detect fake Covid test certificates, reduce overcrowding in arrival halls and separate out those arriving from red and amber list countries.

‘The country’s biosecurity cannot rely on border staff spotting a spelling error.’

But Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, claimed the ‘best financial support the Government can now offer the travel sector is to open up overseas travel as planned from May 17’.

Passengers wearing face masks sit with their bags at departures at Heathrow Terminal 5 (Picture: Getty)

He went on: ‘Not only can this be done safely with widespread testing, but it would also unlock much-needed revenues from business and leisure travellers keen to see family they haven’t seen for a year.

‘Better digital technology would certainly enable more seamless travel through our borders and I’d urge the Government to invest in this more quickly so as to avoid airport queues in future.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We introduced robust border controls to stop coronavirus variants in their tracks and every essential check we’ve introduced for arrivals has strengthened our defences against new mutations.

‘As the UK unlocks domestically and with many British families spread far and wide, we understand that people may need to travel abroad for all sorts of reasons. But we can only permit it if it is done safely, which is why the Global Travel Taskforce has produced the Traffic Light system allowing us to manage the risk from imported cases by varying restrictions depending on the risk of travel from a specific location.’

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