Lawmakers Press U.K. Government to Clarify Travel Restart

U.K. lawmakers put pressure on the government to clarify by the end of next week its plan to resume air travel, saying the country’s tourism-dependent industries face the risk of a second lost summer.

The plan published earlier this month by a task force to restart overseas trips didn’t set out the detail required, the House of Commons Transport Committee said in a report published Thursday. The government has set a goal of restarting leisure travel by May 17 but hasn’t made a final decision to move ahead.

The group asked the government to define by May 1 how countries will be moved between categories in the so-called traffic-light system that will govern border restrictions. They also want a more affordable alternative to PCR tests, which the government has acknowledged are an obstacle to travel.

The pressure comes amid a toughening outlook for a travel industry that ground to a virtual halt last year. On Wednesday, the International Air Transport Association said airlines will lose $48 billion this year, with Europe being the slowest region to recover. This week, the U.K. added India to a list of countries with which travel is banned after coronavirus cases there surged.

The U.K. has said it aims to decide by early next month whether Britons can resume foreign holidays by the target date. It’s said it must look at the data closer to that time before making a commitment.

Airlines and travel companies have been urging the government to set out a clear date and define clear criteria for the country categories, so they can plan schedules and get people to commit to trips.

In its report, the committee also called on the government to deploy more border staff at airports to reduce wait times.

The government is working on a plan to make digital vaccine passports that show proof of a jab available by the middle of next month, the Telegraph reported earlier.

The traffic-light system will classify countries into green, amber and red based on Covid-19 infection and vaccination rates. Travelers to green countries will still have to take PCR tests, which are more expensive than lateral-flow assessments, before departure and on return to the U.K.

The cost of providing a negative result could add 500 pounds ($696) to the budget of a family of four traveling to places where the vaccine rollout is comparable to the U.K.’s, the committee said.

The U.K. banned international travel for most people at the beginning of the year as part of lockdown measures put in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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