Traffic Light Travel Plan Leaves UK Vulnerable to Variants

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Traffic Light Travel Plan Leaves UK Vulnerable to Variants

According to leading UK scientists, it is inevitable that new coronavirus variants will enter the country when international travel resumes to and from England from 17 May.

Last week, ministers agreed on a “green list” of destinations that people would be allowed to return home from without having to self-isolate. The list, set to be reviewed every three weeks, currently consists of only twelve countries including Portugal, Israel, and Iceland.

While entry to Australia and New Zealand is currently heavily restricted, the two countries have also made it onto the UK’s quarantine-free travel list.

Members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) are, however, concerned that the list is not based on evidence about the risks of the spread of variants.

These concerns are echoed by other scientists, including Professor Martin Hibberd, who states “imports are likely to become an increasingly important part of new transmissions circulating within the UK.” Continuing, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) professor calls for an “effective strategy to cope with the competing desires to allow international travel, while keeping circulating virus in the UK to a minimum.”

Another expert from the LSHTM, Martin Mckee, agrees and states: “If everyone from England going to Portugal was only mixing with people from Portugal, that would be one thing. But if you go to a Portuguese resort, it is likely you would be mixing with people from other places.”

As a result of British nationals being highly likely to mix with individuals from all over the world, including those from countries with high infection rates, some experts are insisting on stricter controls for holidays abroad and believe staycations may be a better option for now.

Gurch Randhawa from the University of Bedfordshire is one such expert. He states that permitting overseas travel without “universal quarantine measures for all countries” is not a risk that should be taken and believes deaths will likely rise from imported variants.

These warnings come as travel firms, including TUI, experience their best sales days in months. Around 60% of all holidays booked through the UK’s largest holiday company immediately after the government’s announcement were on trips to Portugal.

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