Almost 60% of Britain would now be on the original ‘green list’
Almost 60 per cent of Britain would now be on the original ‘green list’ allowing travelers to return from abroad without facing onerous self-isolation requirements, official Covid figures revealed today .
Department of Health statistics showed 218 of 380 councils had a coronavirus infection rate of less than 20 cases per 100,000 in the week to April 27, the latest available.
Last summer, ministers imposed strenuous 14-day quarantine requirements on travelers arriving from countries with infection rates above that level. The self-isolation period for all overseas travel has now been reduced to ten days, but overseas holidays are still banned until at least May 17.
The figures also showed that nine out of ten local authorities saw their outbreaks decrease in April. Only Selby in North Yorkshire now has an infection rate above 100 per 100,000. By comparison, there were 23 authorities above that level at the end of March.
Experts said all the figures appeared ‘very optimistic’, suggesting Britain was ‘over the worst’ of the pandemic and would never again see the spiral of Covid deaths and hospitalizations as in the darkest days of January due to the gigantic rollout of vaccination. Over 50 million jabs have now been dealt.
Boris Johnson’s ultra-cautious roadmap out of lockdown is set to revive overseas travel for people in England on May 17, with quarantine measures scrapped for ‘green’ countries with both low rates of infection and high vaccination levels.
But the list is expected to be small – and include few European destinations – amid fears by some ministers that travel could trigger a third wave and import dangerous variants.
Covid infection rates across the UK in the week to April 27, the latest available. Department of Health statistics showed nine out of ten councils saw their cases fall throughout April. The highest infection rate was in Selby, North Yorkshire
HOLIDAYS ABROAD ‘SHOULD BE DISCOURAGED’ UNTIL AUGUST, MPS WARNS
Holidays abroad “should be discouraged” until August due to the threat of a third wave, MPs say.
The Coronavirus All-Party Parliamentary Group, a cross-party group of MPs, said the travel ban should continue and only be reviewed every three months.
Their report states: “The UK Government should discourage all international leisure travel to prevent the importation of new variants into the UK, to reduce the risk of a third wave and further closures.
“This recommendation should be implemented immediately and reviewed quarterly.”
Boris Johnson’s ultra-cautious roadmap out of lockdown is set to restart overseas holidays on May 17, when restrictions on overseas travel are lifted.
But ministers will establish a traffic light system for travel, which will determine whether holidaymakers will have to self-quarantine on their return to the UK.
Few countries are expected to be on the ‘green’ list, with only Portugal in Europe, which would mean travelers would not have to self-quarantine.
Many are likely to be turned ‘orange’, requiring travelers to self-isolate for 10 days upon their return.
The Ministry of Health’s infection rates are calculated based on the number of people who tested positive in an area in the past seven days, divided by the population of that area. He then gives a figure per 100,000 inhabitants to be made comparable everywhere.
According to government statistics, almost a million Covid tests are carried out daily, but only a few thousand are currently contracting the virus because the prevalence is so low.
The latest figures show the majority of local councils now have an infection rate below 20 per 100,000, and three in Scotland – Midlothian, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Shetland Islands – have had no Covid cases in the past of the last seven days.
Denbighshire in North Wales had the lowest Covid infection rate at 1 in 100,000, a 97% drop from the 41.8 recorded at the end of March.
Monmouthshire, also in Wales, had the second lowest rate at 3.2 per 100,000, followed by Scottish Borders at 3.5 per 100,000.
By contrast, Selby had the highest infection rate in the country at 102.6 per 100,000, up 32% from the end of March.
But experts say this should not be a cause for concern as high levels of vaccination should keep the disease at bay, and it is inevitable that cases will rise as measures are relaxed. They added that it was good news that there had not yet been a peak during the April relaxation.
Selby was followed by Hyndburn, Lancashire (98.7 per 100,000), North Lincolnshire (78.4 per 100,000) and Mid Ulster (69.3 per 100,000).
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: ‘All the main statistics are looking very optimistic at the moment: number of cases, results of the infection survey from the ONS, hospitalizations and deaths.
“I believe we are past the worst in that I don’t think we will see as much pressure on hospitals or as many deaths in the future as we have seen over the past few months.”
However, he added: “But I think we are still a long way from being able to say it’s over.”
“Most modelers are predicting a new wave this year, even with high vaccination rates and that doesn’t take into account what new variants might do.
“Nevertheless, thanks to the vaccine, we should see fewer severe cases compared to the number of cases and also due to higher immunity, the restrictions necessary to control the epidemic should not be so strict.
Ministers threw countries onto the quarantine list with little warning last summer, leaving some Britons emptying their pockets in a desperate bid to get home to beat the deadline.
Paul Charles, a travel consultant close to talks with the government, said at the time the bans were based on cases reaching more than 20 per 100,000.
“While certain other criteria are measured and monitored by Professor Chris Whitty and his team, and cabinet ministers including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, such as the health infrastructure in a country and the background of medical authorities on the ground, it’s the number of cases per 100,000 that counts now,’ he wrote in a column for Weekly trip.
“Anything above 20 per 100,000 for a period of seven days or more is likely to result in that country being added to the quarantine list.”
The holidays are set to resume on May 17, with ministers preparing to unveil a ‘traffic light’ system indicating which countries will require quarantine measures when holidaymakers return.
The government is expected to unveil the list as early as next week – as millions of Britons are left uncertain about whether to book trips abroad.
Senior ministers are battling over the size of the ‘green’ list, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty among those pushing to keep green-rated states to an absolute minimum.
But other cabinet ministers have reportedly urged a softer approach, insisting the outbreak is under control in the UK and high vaccination rates should keep the government on track to ease curbs further .
The government will calculate which countries to put on the lists based on Covid infection rates, vaccinations and the growth or decline in infections, among other factors.
They are set on separate islands and countries, which could make vacationing in areas like the Azores and Tenerife more likely.
Portugal is expected to be one of the few places on the green list, alongside Gibraltar, Malta and Israel.