UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a press conference on Monday evening that he is proceeding cautiously with reopening British borders and resuming international travel, saying he doesn’t want to “re-import” the coronavirus from other European countries.
Great Britain imposed stiff fines on those leaving the country as of the last week of March in an effort to stop virus carriers from spreading the contagion any further.
A tentative resumption of travel has been already slated for June 21.
Johnson seemed to cast doubts on allowing UK residents to strike out for the sunny shores of the Mediterranean anytime soon, when he warned that unnamed European countries with “much higher rates of coronavirus infection” posed a threat to the UK.
The British PM said that he would not allow his countrymen to “re-import” the virus to the country after visiting other European countries on holiday.
According to legislation passed by the British Parliament on March 26, United Kingdom citizens traveling abroad “without a reasonable excuse” now face a stiff fine of 5,000 pounds ($7,000).
The rule will be in effect from March 29 until June 30, meaning that those hoping to take trips abroad in June will be hit with a hefty fine.
In late February, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his “roadmap” for re-opening the country after months of lockdown and strict anti-Covid measures. Johnson announced that all measures in the country would be lifted by June 21, 2021.
In today’s press briefing, the PM stated that nothing would change for the immediate future, in hopes that the current positive coronavirus situation would continue and the UK would emerge even stronger in the months ahead.
Travel restrictions could debilitate countries dependent on UK tourism
The existing ban on international travel, which would restrict holiday jaunts until the end of June, may prove to be catastrophic for countries that rely economically on summertime tourism from the UK, like Greece and Cyprus.
The legislation came as an extremely unpleasant surprise to many in the UK and abroad, as the country’s quick vaccination campaign seemed to be an encouraging sign that the UK would lighten up on its existing travel restrictions for the summer.
Officials from many beloved summer holiday destinations, hoping that months of lockdown in the UK would inspire great waves of tourism abroad, have already indicated that they would likely open their borders to vaccinated travelers from the country before the start of the summer season.
Before details of the proposed bill were announced, Greece and Cyprus had already discussed opening up “tourism corridors” with the UK for the summer, which would allow vaccinated travelers from the UK to freely travel in the countries, without having to quarantine.
Additionally, both countries have been strong advocates of “vaccine passports,” or travel documents that contain information regarding travelers’ vaccination status.
All non-essential trips out of UK currently banned
Under current coronavirus restrictions, put in place to stop the spread of the deadly virus in the country, all nonessential travel, both within the UK and abroad, is now banned.
In order to leave the UK, travelers must fill out a detailed form declaring the reason for their trip.
Currently, the fine for not filling out the form is 500 GBP, significantly lower than the proposed 5,000 GBP fine.
Additionally, all those returning to the UK from abroad are subject to rigorous questioning at the border as to the purpose of their journey.
Sticking to coronavirus Roadmap “like glue”
“The ‘Roadmap’ continues to be one that we are sticking to like glue,” he added, saying “all the data that I can see suggests we have no reason to deviate” from the path already laid out regarding the eventual reopening of the country domestic travel and business on May 17.
“We will continue to keep appraised of the progress being made as time goes on,” he noted.
Asked whether or not vaccine passports were “un-British,” he responded that “the principle of requiring that people have to show they have been vaccinated can be a sensitive one; but we are some way off in finalizing any of these plans.
Vaccine acceptance in Great Britain “fantastic”
“The crucial thing is that people get out and get vaccinated when you are asked to.” He added that “uptake,” or vaccine acceptance, at the moment in Britain is “fantastic — there is a 99.75% uptake for the second dose of the vaccines. That is terrific, that’s what we want to see.”
Refusing to commit to giving the aviation sector a date of a few weeks out for a potential resumption of international travel, Johnson simply replied “We will give as much notice as we possibly can. We continue to support the aviation industry in as many ways as we can.”
The British PM continued to stress again and again that everyone must get vaccinated so that business in general “in the giant metropolis of London” and elsewhere in Great Britain can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Vaccines “most stunning thing about the last year”
London, he added, “will bounce back very strongly — particularly once the cultural sector gets going again. A really big change is coming” as the vaccination rollout continues.
April 12 is the supposed target for the reopening of retail, pubs, gyms, hairdressers, etc. all across Great Britain. Johnson added that he would doubtless “raise a pint” at his local pub on that day.
March 29 marked a day in which some restrictions were lifted all around the Kingdom and the results of that action will be studied for some weeks, he noted, before any further loosening of measures can be thought of.
Asked what his thoughts were on the one-year anniversary of his own coronavirus hospitalization, Johnson said that he had not imagined that the pandemic would have lasted this long — but he also “never thought we would get so many workable vaccines. that’s the most stunning thing about the last year.”