UK 'in talks' with countries over international travel says Shapps
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Mr Shapps has confirmed he is “in talks” with a number of countries about opening up international travel for the UK. Singapore, America and Spain are included in the destinations the Transport Secretary has been in discussion with over bilateral agreements to unlock travel. Under Boris Johnson’s timeline for lifting current Covid restrictions, international travel is not allowed before this May date, but the roadmap lists this as subject to review.
ITV’s Robert Peston asked Mr Shapps how advanced talks are on what people call a vaccine passport for international travel.
The Transport Secretary replied: “Well, remember the Prime Minister only announced the task force on Monday but I can tell you that in the last few days I’ve spoken to my Singaporean opposite number, my American opposite number today, actually, my Spanish opposite number… So we’re speaking to a lot of other governments.”
Earlier the MP was pressed on whether there would be high-risk countries where restrictions would remain in place once international travel restrictions were lifted for the UK,
He said: “It’s not just about the prevalence, how many cases there are, nowadays, of course, we’re much more, or as interested, perhaps even more interested, in the variants rather than just the prevalence.
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“What we’re interested in is where those new variants might create problems with people being able to be protected. And so we need to look at all of those factors.
“It’s rather sort of putting the cart before the horse if I kind of answer your question directly, simply because we don’t know until we’ve done the work – not just at home, but abroad.
“And I’m working with you know the World Health Organisation, organisations like ICAO, that’s the International Civil Aviation Authority [Organisation], and many other governments as well elsewhere to look at what’s practical and study the science and find solutions that we hope would work.”
Asked when we would be able to travel again, he said: “Now we’ve got this genuinely world leading vaccination programme with 18 million people vaccinated.
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But, but, we know that there are very few locations in the world that you could go to in the short term where the population is that highly vaccinated, and as a result we need to look at all the various different measures, which needs to include things like the extent to which testing can be used to open up travel.
Now all of that needs to go into the mix, and that’s why I can’t tell you two days after the Prime Minister’s announced the road map and this task force – I can’t tell you the answer. I can tell you when I will be able to, and that’s the 12th of April, and we know that travel won’t be able to resume until at least the 17th of May.”
It comes amid fears British holidaymakers face being banned from the continent this summer because of the European Union’s bungled vaccine scheme.
Diplomats and officials have claimed EU borders could remain closed to Britons until the bloc has fully vaccinated 70 percent of its 450 million population.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said this should be achieved by September 21 at the latest.
But some European capitals already feel they are falling behind schedule as supplies of the life-saving vaccines are scarce across the bloc.
Overall the EU has vaccinated about six percent of its population since it started rolling out Covid jabs.
In contrast, Britain has delivered jabs to more than a quarter of all adults, with close to 19 million doses given out already.
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