UK’s Global Travel Taskforce meets to plan for the restart of international travel

The taskforce will develop a plan for a new risk-based framework to facilitate international travel no sooner than 17 May 2021, in line with the UK government’s plans to ease the national restrictions that are currently in place across England.

International travel

The UK’s Secretary of State, Grant Shapps, chaired the first meeting of the new UK government Global Travel Taskforce on 2 March 2021 to set out a plan for restarting international travel in a safe and sustainable way.

Several government departments, industry bodies, transport operators and travel agencies met to discuss the work of the taskforce and how international travel can be re-opened safely.

This includes developing a new risk-based framework to facilitate international travel, using the suite of measures that the government already has in place – such as testing and isolation – and the recommendations from the first Global Travel Taskforce that was created in 2020.

They will also look at how existing measures, such as the government’s testing and isolation schemes, could be used to facilitate travel while managing the risk of imported cases and ‘variants of concern’.

The taskforce will provide a report to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on 12 April 2020, which will be used to help the UK government to determine when and how to resume safe international travel no earlier than 17 May 2021.

The decision on when international travel can resume will be dependent on:

  • The global and domestic epidemiological picture
  • The prevalence and location of any ‘variants of concern’
  • The progress of vaccine rollouts here and abroad
  • What more the government has learned about the efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths.

All measures will be kept under review, and people should continue to follow the national restrictions for England that were introduced on 6 January 2021, meaning that everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, said: “The UK’s leading vaccine rollout has created a wave of optimism and, as a result, the Global Travel Taskforce is charged with exploring safe and secure ways to restart international travel when the time is right. By planning carefully considered steps, we will protect the excellent progress made through our vaccine and advanced testing programme, whilst ensuring that we are ready to kick-start our travel sector when current travel restrictions can be lifted. We will not only consider the progress of our world-beating domestic vaccine programme, but also need to review where destination countries have got to with both vaccine and testing capabilities.”

The UK government has already put in place a range of tough measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the border, including the:

  • Introduction of pre-departure testing for all international arrivals
  • Requirement for those travelling back to the UK from a ‘red list’ country to self-isolate in a government-approved facility for a period of 10 days while there is a heightened risk of transmission from these areas.

All international arrivals must also take a COVID-19 test on both day two and day eight of their self-isolation period – with genome sequencing included within the cost of the testing bundle.

Passengers arriving from ‘non-red list’ countries still have the option to pay for a private test and shorten their self-isolation period by up to half through the Test to Release scheme on receipt of a negative COVID-19 result.

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