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Now holiday freedom ‘in weeks’ for double jabbed

The Health Secretary said he wanted to relax the restrictions on foreign travel (AFP via Getty Images)
The Health Secretary said he wanted to relax the restrictions on foreign travel (AFP via Getty Images)

Double-vaccinated Britons may be given the go-ahead within “weeks” for summer holidays in Mediterranean resorts without having to quarantine on their return, Matt Hancock signalled on Tuesday.

The Health Secretary said he wanted to relax the restrictions on foreign travel, with millions of people still eager to head abroad to “amber” list countries.

“It’s something we are taking clinical advice on and we will have more to say in the weeks to come,” he told Times Radio.

Some reports suggest an announcement might come as soon as Thursday, or possibly Monday when the first review of the “traffic light” system for foreign travel is scheduled to take place.

Mr Hancock emphasised that currently there had not yet been the clinical advice to lift quarantine for people, who have had both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, when they return from “amber” countries.

However, he told LBC Radio: “We are working on a plan for the double-vaccinated people, using tests, and to have that testing regime in place, instead of having to have the quarantine in some circumstances. I can’t give you a date but what I can tell you is that I’m in favour of moving forward in this area.”

He added that the Government was determined not to jeopardise the freedoms “at home” which have been delivered by one of the fastest vaccine roll-outs in the world.

Pressed on whether the rules could change before August, with an exemption from quarantine for “amber list” countries for the double vaccinated, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I know that your viewers get the difference between the rules that are in place now and what might happen in the future.”

Ministers are very much aware that citizens from Germany and other European countries, with lower Covid rates than the UK, are already heading to Mediterranean holiday destinations. In other developments:

Mr Hancock said the Government was “worried” about flu this winter as “people’s natural immunity will be lower because we haven’t had any serious flu for 18 months now”.

The NHS is preparing for a “very significant” flu vaccination drive with people potentially given Covid boosters and flu jabs at the same time.

The Health Secretary said the country was on “track” for lockdown to be fully eased on July 19, highlighting the very low number of Covid deaths and slow rise in hospitalisations, despite a surge in cases, as showing the vaccines were working.

Mental health minister Nadine Dorries said there had been a significant rise in demand for eating disorder services during the pandemic. She told the Health Select Committee: “It’s a very complex issue. It surrounds lots of things such as body image, social media, but lockdown brought a particular pressure and a particular strain on those young women who had been concealing, managing, living with eating disorders, and it kind of came to a crisis point during lockdown.

NHS England said that young people had been “hit hard” by the Covid-19 crisis as it announced a £40 million boost for mental health services.

A total of 153,630 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

Mr Hancock said the main NHS app, which is different from the Covid-19 app and records vaccination status, is “important” as countries are likely to need proof that Britons travelling abroad have had their jabs. “We can now, all of us, see our vaccine status, see your testing status, on the NHS app,” he said. “Six million people have now downloaded the main NHS app and on that you can show whether you have had the jabs.

“It’s important because we know other countries are going to say that they want proof that you have been vaccinated before you go. So, when travel is opened up, we are going to make sure people have got that ability to prove it.” Those returning from a green list country are not required to quarantine, but there are no major viable tourist destinations in that tier following the removal of Portugal. The amber list includes most popular summer hotspots such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece.

Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group — which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports — are preparing legal action, calling for more transparency over how Whitehall decides which countries are on the green, amber and red lists.

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