COVID-19: When will Britons be able to book a foreign holiday? Here are the key dates to watch

The chance of jetting off for a foreign holiday this summer is still very much up in the air, with ministers watching carefully as infections rise again in Europe.

So what’s going on, what are the key dates, and could you really be fined £5,000 if you go abroad without proper reason?

12 April – A big day for people hoping for a holiday in the sun

The struggling tourism and aviation industry will also be glued to the news on this date, when the government’s global travel taskforce makes recommendations on restarting international travel.

Ministers will then look at the advice and decide when the rules may be changed to lift the current ban on foreign getaways.

The taskforce – led by the Department for Transport – will look at the state of the virus in the UK and abroad, the progress of our vaccine rollout, and the "prevalence and location" of concerning variants.

One suggestion is that vaccine passports could be introduced for those who’ve had the jab, allowing them to travel.

It’s also possible that while holidays may be allowed to some countries, others struggling with certain variants – such as Brazil – will remain "red list" countries.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News the increase in cases in Europe means it is still "too early to say" what the taskforce will decide.

17 May – Earliest possible day for foreign holidays

The government said when it revealed its roadmap for ending lockdown that this is the earliest possible date for international holidays to resume.

So, in an ideal world, an early summer break could be possible – but booking something now without the chance to change the dates would be risky.

And while the government could allow Britons to go abroad, other countries could still impose their own restrictions.

However, some – such as Portugal, Cyprus and Greece – have said already that they will welcome Britons if they have a negative test or a certificate showing vaccination.

‘Staycations’ are possible before 17 May, with UK nations allowing self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets to open in the coming weeks.

What about the £5,000 fine?

New coronavirus laws set to come in on 29 March mean people trying to travel abroad from England without reasonable cause could get a hefty fine.

The laws would not expire until 30 June – but could be superseded following the travel taskforce’s report on 12 April.

What are the exceptions – and what’s the ‘Stanley Johnson clause’?

Under the new laws, people may still travel for the following reasons:

• Work
• Study
• Legal obligations or to vote
• Moving, selling or renting property
• Childcare reasons or to be present at a birth
• Visiting a dying relative or close friend
• Attending a funeral
• Getting married or attending the wedding of a close relative
• Medical appointments
• Escaping a risk of harm

The exception covering property has been nicknamed the ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ after the prime minister’s father was criticised last year for going to his Greek villa.

He said it was "essential business" as he was getting it "COVID-proof" to rent out.

The exception allows trips for "purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property".

Who’s still on the ‘red list’ – and when do you have to pay £1,750 for a quarantine hotel?

People who’ve been in or through 35 countries deemed high risk countries, including Argentina, Brazil, UAE and South Africa, are still banned from entering the UK.

UK and Irish residents who’ve recently been in a ‘red list’ country can come back, but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at £1,750 each.

People who don’t comply, or lie about where they have been, face a potential £10,000 fine or even 10 years in prison.

Travellers arriving from a country not on the banned list have different rules.

They still have to quarantine for 10 days (though not in a hotel) and must also get a negative test no longer than three days before travel.

They must also pay for a test package, which includes tests on or before day 2 and on or after day 8.

Anyone who tests positive must quarantine for a further 10 days.

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