No plans to put all of Europe on travel 'red list', says Matt Hancock despite soaring cases

23 March 2021, 09:34 | Updated: 23 March 2021, 10:04

By Patrick Grafton-Green

There are no plans to put all of Europe on a travel "red list", Matt Hancock has said, despite a third wave of coronavirus infections gripping the continent.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday that the UK will "feel the effects" of an exponential growth in Covid cases across Europe, as multiple EU countries introduce tough new lockdown restrictions.

Despite concerns, the Health Secretary said today there are no plans to place the whole of Europe on the UK’s “red list”.

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“We don’t rule it out but we don’t have plans to do that now,” he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari.

People who have been to a “red list” country within 10 days of travelling to the UK are banned from entry unless they are UK residents or Irish nationals.

UK residents and Irish nationals must quarantine in a hotel selected by the Government.

Mr Hancock was also asked about new laws that will see people who leave the UK without a reasonable excuse face fines of up to £5,000.

“At the moment travelling abroad is not allowed under the ‘stay at home’ rules, but from next Monday the good news is that those ‘stay at home’ rules are being lifted,” he said.

Mr Hancock said while six people or two households will be able to meet outdoors from next week, the earliest date restrictions on going abroad will be lifted is May 17.

“As a result of lifting those ‘stay at home’ rules, it’s important to put in place rules to say you can’t go abroad on holiday as part of the roadmap,” he told LBC.

Within the new legal framework for coming out of lockdown, “international travel restrictions will come to an end no earlier than May 17 subject to the data”, he insisted.

Asked whether Brits would be able to travel abroad for holidays from July, he said: “We don’t know, this decision ahead of May 17 will ask absolutely that question and we have a structure in place called the Global Travel Taskforce to come to a conclusion on this.

“But we’ve got to protect this country and the progress that we’ve made.

“At the same time, I totally understand that lots of people want to travel abroad this summer especially after the year that we’ve all had.”

The legislation, entitled the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021, will come into force on March 29.

The regulations will be voted on by Parliament on Thursday and essentially replace the previous tier system with a series of "steps", following the proposed dates of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown for England.

Step 1, from March 29, permits up to six people meeting outdoors but restricts indoor gatherings of two or more people. Some outdoor sports are permitted.

Step 2, which could come into effect from April 12, is when non-essential shops might reopen as well as businesses like hairdressers and hospitality venues serving customers outside. Weddings and wakes could then have up to 15 people.

Step 3, which the Government said may come into force from May 17, allows groups of six to meet inside and up to 30 people outside.

The need for the restrictions must be reviewed by April 12, and at least once every 35 days thereafter, the legal papers say.

The laws expire on June 30, unless they are scrapped or amended in the meantime.