ALL passengers arriving in Britain will have to take a rapid covid test under ambitious plans being considered to get Brits back on holiday this summer.
Ministers are mulling over a three tiered warning system with the world carved up into covid zones alongside rapid testing for all to allow those with vaccine passports or recent test results to jet away and return safely.
The measures aim to simplify travel restrictions, while also preventing returning Brits importing vaccine busting covid variants.
Arrivals from green countries would require hardly any restrictions for travellers apart a 15 minutes lateral flow test – likely taken when arriving in the UK.
Amber nations will likely require negative PCR tests before travel and some form of quarantine, as well as a lateral flow test on arrival.
But hotel quarantine will continue for all red list nations.
The cost of the test – usually around £30 – will have to be forked out by the passenger.
Vaccines Passports or recent tests are still likely to be needed by most holiday destinations, with Virgin Atlantic becoming the latest airline to announce a trial.
Unlike last year’s travel corridors, the system will be based on the prevalence of vaccine busting variants and jab roll outs rather than simple infection rates.
Airline bosses and the travel industry are confident the proposals, which are about to land on the PM’s desk, will finally get global travel moving again in time for the July rush.
Boris Johnson is set to announced some findings from the Global Travel Taskforce after Easter, but The Sun understands there will be limited scope for travel when holidays become legal again on May 17.
As it stands going on holiday illegally could land you with a £5000 fine, but that is still expected to be dropped under phase three of the roadmap.
And it’s likely that restrictions on travel destinations will increase before slowly being eased before the summer season – with dozens of countries potentially added to the hotel quarantine list next week.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty are likely to pressure the PM into making travel measures as strict as possible.
One source close to the taskforce said: “All they care about at the moment is variants – it is their primary focus and they do not want anything to jeopardise the national vaccination efforts.”
But transport ministers have told the travel industry they that they expect quick tests to be the secret weapon to allow millions to head to sunshine states this summer.
One minister said the system, based on eight strands would be “robust, trusted and as free-flowing as possible.”
The 15 minutes lateral flow tests are seen as a simple way to keep passenger flows up, while also spotting people with the virus.
If the lateral flow tests did identify someone with covid passengers would have to isolate and take PCR tests to help identify any further variants.
One travel source said: “These tests are known to pick up most cases, and are backed by SAGE scientists.
“And they are routinely used in schools, and if they’re good enough for schools kids, they’re good enough to ramp up international travel.”
Ministers are also confident of striking bi-lateral travel agreements with countries like the USA and Israel who have powered through their vaccine rollout and adding them to the ‘Green’ list.
Talks with popular travel destinations in Europe, like Spain, Greece and Portugal are on going.
But another insider said: “The full list of countries and their categorisation is not likely to come anytime soon.
“The situation is too volatile, especially in Europe, to make clear where destinations should be placed on the list.
“But this will outline the thresholds required for countries to be deemed covid-secure.”
The industry source added: “We get the sense that the Department for Transport want to be as ambitious as possible because they know it is going to get watered down by health.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy who has spear headed the campaign to get summer holidays going again told The Sun: “It is encouraging to see there will be a traffic light system in place to get travel going again on May 17.
“It will be important to give clarity to the consumer and ensure there is enough of a notice period before any destination is switched.
“We don’t want to see the distressing scenes that we saw last summer, caused by popular destinations coming off a list at the 11th hour.”
Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick told Times Radio the government will help set up a vaccine passport to help Brits get away.
He said: “On the international stage, vaccine certification is not entirely within our control and if our citizens want to travel abroad, we’ll need to ensure that they are able to do so.”
He warned people to wait until the review in published before making a final decision to book – saying he had opted for a staycation instead.
Mr Jenrick said the review will be based on “the state of play with the virus, the vaccine roll out in a number of countries around the world, particularly looking in detail at the countries where Brits are most likely to go on holiday.
“Also, the different mechanisms that other countries are putting in place, like the vaccinate certification, vaccine passports and so on, and seeing what sorts of procedures we can use to ensure that our citizens are safe when they go abroad, and of course when they come back to the UK.”
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LIGHT IT UP
The holiday destinations likely to be on the ‘green list’ this summer
Downing Street sources last night downplayed talk that foreign travel plans were on the brink of being signed off.
They said that while ministers are keen to get let Brits jet off abroad for their holidays again, it is too early to for details to be thrashed out.
One No10 insider said: “We are just not in a place where we have set out what this is going to look like yet.”