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‘Difficult year for travel’ warns PM, but exemptions for double-jabbed not ruled out
21 June 2021, 13:57 | Updated: 21 June 2021, 22:19
Boris Johnson has played down suggestions that restrictions on foreign travel could be lifted as more people received the coronavirus vaccine.
There has been speculation the requirement for people arriving in England from countries on the amber list to quarantine at home for 10 days could be lifted in the coming weeks.
But speaking during a visit to a laboratory in Hertfordshire, Mr Johnson said: "I want to stress that this is going to be - whatever happens - a difficult year for travel.
"There will be hassle, there will be delays, I am afraid, because the priority has got to be to keep the country safe and stop the virus coming back in."
This comes just one day after Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said ministers have not ruled out relaxing pandemic restrictions, such as on foreign travel and self-isolation, for those who have received both coronavirus vaccines.
He told the Andrew Marr Show the data on double vaccinations is "still developing" but added: "It looks great, it looks really encouraging, we're trying to be as flexible as we can."
The prime minister says he is "looking at" the possibility of an exemption from quarantine for people who have had both jabs.
Analysis of NHS Test and Trace figures by The Times found that fewer than one in 200 travellers who entered the UK from amber tier countries between May 20 and June 9 tested positive for coronavirus.
People returning from a green list country are not required to enter quarantine, but there are no major viable tourist destinations in that tier following the removal of Portugal, which led to accusations that decisions are being based on political rather than public health motives.
The amber list includes most popular summer hotspots such as Spain, Italy 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.
The first "checkpoint" review since the traffic light system was introduced is due to take place on June 28.
But Paul Charles, chief executive at travel consultancy The PC Agency, said he does not anticipate any major changes.
"I think caution is going to continue from the Government,” he said.
"I think there may well be very few changes. You may see maybe somewhere like Turkey move from red to amber, you may see a couple of greens added.
"But they've got to re-instil confidence in people about the traffic light system. The system is shot to pieces at the moment, because of the way that they treated Portugal two weeks ago.
"They've either got to reinvigorate the traffic light system, or they've got to outline how they're going to enable fully jabbed citizens to travel with more freedom and not have to quarantine when they return from an amber country."
He added: "I'm not sure they're going to open things up very much at all until August."