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COVID-19: Holiday destinations abroad could be graded using ‘traffic light system’, say reports

Holiday destinations could be ranked under a "traffic light system", with fewer restrictions for places with low coronavirus rates and high vaccination take-up, according to reports.

Countries would be graded either green, amber or red, according to how well they are coping with the pandemic, under plans discussed by ministers for resuming foreign travel.

According to The Times and The Sun, returning from green-listed countries would be exempt from quarantine measures.

The Times says travel to and from so-called red-list countries will be banned, although the Sun said those arriving back in the UK from such destinations will have to pay to stay at quarantine hotels, as is the current set-up for the worst affected countries.

Overseas holidays are banned under England’s coronavirus lockdown measures until 17 May at the earliest.

A new law came in on Monday threatening a fine of up to £5,000 for anyone who tries to leave England before 30 June without "good reason", although this could be lifted sooner if travel is allowed to resume.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is carrying out a review of the ban, which Boris Johnson plans to talk about when he makes an announcement on holidays on Easter Monday.

Under the claimed traffic light system, the US and Israel, where vaccination rates are good, are likely to be deemed lower risk and therefore be good options for holidays.

However, European holidays look unlikely for many thanks to a slow vaccine rollout and a rise in COVID-19 cases on the continent.

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called Europe’s vaccine rollout "unacceptably" slow.

A WHO report says, "variants of concern" are continuing to spread across the continent and the "strain on hospitals grows" so speeding up the vaccination rollout was "crucial".

Dr Hans Henri Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said: "Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic. Not only do they work, they are also highly effective in preventing infection.

"However, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow."

According to latest EU figures, as of 28 March, 13.6% of adults in the bloc have received a first dose of a COVID vaccine, with 5.8% having received both doses.

In the UK, as of 31 March, 59.1% of adults have received a first dose and 8.6% have received both doses.

Last week saw increasing transmission of COVID-19 in the majority of countries in the WHO’s European region, with 1.6 million new cases and close to 24,000 deaths.

Some 27 countries in the WHO Europe region are currently in partial or full nationwide lockdown, with 21 imposing night-time curfews.

In the past two weeks, 23 countries have intensified restrictions while 13 have eased measures, with an additional nine to follow suit.

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The prime minister has already said that vaccine passports are "definitely" going to feature in foreign travel.

"On the issue of vaccine certification, there’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports," he said on a visit to Middlesbrough on Thursday.

"You can see already that other countries, the aviation industry, are interested in those and there’s a logic to that."

Meanwhile, there are scientific concerns that anyone returning to the UK could increase the risk of introducing mutant coronavirus strains.

Scientific experts have repeatedly said summer staycations should be encouraged over foreign holidays this year.

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of epidemiology at University College London, said the importation of new coronavirus variants is "one of the biggest risks" facing the UK.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: "This is a risk where you’ve got high rates of infection. I’m for staycations."

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