All foreign holidays 'should be discouraged' due to variant concerns, MPs insist

3 May 2021, 00:01

MPs have express concerns over foreign holidays
MPs have express concerns over foreign holidays. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

MPs are urging the Government to "discourage all international leisure travel" to protect the UK from Covid-19 variants.

The ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from May 17, but the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) insisted restrictions should remain.

It claimed the importation of new variants could "lead to further lockdowns, and inevitably, further loss of life".

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The cross-party group described airport arrival halls as "a breeding ground for infection".

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

Passengers' documents should be checked before they enter arrival halls, where possible, so those being transported to quarantine facilities are moved "rapidly", the group added.

The APPG also called for "adequate financial support" to be provided to travel firms, and for a reversal in the reduction of funding for international research projects assisting the fight against the virus.

Lucy Moreton of 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.

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."

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 the 17th May".

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."