UK officials in talks with EU over reopening travel routes

Talks over the mechanics of reopening travel routes between the UK and the European Union over the summer holidays will open with Brussels within days.

Officials in Whitehall are working on a proposal for the mutual recognition of Covid passports, which will contain information on vaccines administered to the holder and recent test results.

Earlier this month Boris Johnson said he was “hopeful” about restarting international travel on 17 May. EU countries with large tourist sectors are pushing for the European commission to coordinate with London.

EU officials had said on Tuesday that talks were at an advanced stage with the US government over mutual recognition of certification proving the vaccine and Covid test history of the holder. A European commission spokesman had said there had been “no contacts” with the UK government but that they were open to them.

In response, a UK government spokesman said on Tuesday that officials were now preparing to open such discussions with Brussels.

“Ensuring free and open travel with our European partners is vitally important which is why we will be engaging the European commission on reopening travel routes from the UK shortly”, the spokesman said.

Currently, foreign travel is largely prohibited for residents in the UK. Those arriving in the country including from the EU need to quarantine for up to 10 days.

Last year, the EU also adopted tough restrictions on travel into the bloc’s 27 member states, with only Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand being on a list of exempt countries.

To qualify for the list, countries must have recorded no more than 25 new Covid cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days and no more than 4% of tests carried out in the previous week returning positive. The latest UK statistics, dated 20 April, show 24.7 cases per 100,000 across a seven-day period.

The EU’s member states started a discussion on taking into account other factors last week. Work is also ongoing on the design of a digital green certificate which member states will be free to use to facilitate travel if they wish.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to publish a traffic light system within the next two weeks grading foreign destinations as green, amber or red for travellers from England. Each colour will dictate the level of quarantine or testing that could be required by holidaymakers when returning home.

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