PM says international travel rules remain unchanged as lockdown in England eased

29 March 2021, 17:46 | Updated: 30 March 2021, 06:49

Boris Johnson has told a Downing Street press conference that travel abroad is "still forbidden"
Boris Johnson has told a Downing Street press conference that travel abroad is "still forbidden". Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson has told a Downing Street press conference that travel abroad is "still forbidden" but said the Government will be saying more on this on April 5.

Speaking during the press conference, the PM said: "I think that the most important thing that we've got to do right now as we continue to immunise great numbers of people in this country is to protect our country insofar as we can, it's never going to be perfect, but do as much as we can to prevent the virus coming back in from abroad and new variants coming in from abroad.

"So, the rules about what you can do, what people can do, to see their families abroad will be governed entirely by the rules that cover travel abroad and people coming from abroad.

"At the moment, as you know, it's still forbidden to travel, we'll be saying a bit more on April 5 about what the global travel taskforce has come up with.

"Clearly, at the moment there are lots of countries that are on a red list, 35 countries are on a red list, where we have very stringent measures in place for them, for people arriving from those countries."

He added: "We will be saying more about seeing family abroad and travel abroad, but it won't be until at least April 5."

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It comes amid the news that Ministers will reportedly hold discussions on whether to add France to the UK's travel ban list.

The measure will be discussed at a meeting of the "Covid O" committee on Tuesday amid rising coronavirus cases across the Channel, according to the Daily Telegraph.

From April 6, hauliers from outside the UK and Ireland visiting England for more than two days will need to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of their arrival and once every 72 hours afterwards.

But with growing signs of a third wave spreading across continental Europe, there is speculation that the Government could go further by adding France to the UK's red list.

Some 4,872 patients are in intensive care in France, nearly matching the most during the country's previous coronavirus surge in November.

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The PM's spokesman was asked why France has not already been put on the red list.

He replied: "We obviously keep all of our measures at the border under constant review and, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we will not hesitate to introduce tougher restrictions if necessary."

He pointed to the testing regime coming into force from April 6, adding: "Tougher testing measures will ensure that hauliers who come across need to isolate in their cab, and if they are going to stay in the UK, they will require testing on day two, five and eight."

Speaking about the concerns around a third wave of cases in France, Mr Johnson told a press conference that the UK is "looking very closely at what is going on in France" and "keeping it under constant review."

However, he qualified this by saying: "But our deliveries of medicines and food depend very much on those short straights with France, so we have to weigh that up."

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there were two risks for the UK from rising cases in Europe and elsewhere - the chance of importing cases and the "much bigger" concern of variants which might reduce the impact of the vaccines.

He told a Downing Street press conference: "Are we concerned about what's happening in Europe and elsewhere?

"Anybody would be concerned about any country in the world where rates are going up because that has a big impact on people's health and lives.

"As citizens of the world, we would all be concerned about any of those countries."

In the long term there would be ways of dealing with the problems posed by variants but "in the short term that is the principal thing that's driving concerns about border issues at this stage".

And Boris Johnson also said the relaxation of restrictions would be "prized" by people but emphasised the need for a "cautious" approach along the road map.

He told the Downing Street press conference: "The whole point about the road map and the timescale that we have got is that it gives us a chance to evaluate the data as we go forward."

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said next week would be the earliest at which the impact of reopening schools would be assessed.

"At that point we will be able to give the recommendations," he said.

While "everything is moving in the right direction", a formal data analysis was needed, he added.