Official Covid figures today revealed that nearly 60 per cent of Britain will now be on the original “green list” that allows travelers to return from abroad without facing cumbersome self-isolation requirements.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health showed that 218 of the 380 councils had a coronavirus infection rate of less than 20 cases per 100,000 in the week ending April 27, the most recent rate available.
Last summer, ministers imposed arduous 14-day quarantine requirements on travelers from countries with infection rates above this level. The self-isolation period for all overseas trips has now been shortened to ten days, but holidays abroad are still banned until at least May 17.
The figures also showed that nine out of ten local authorities saw the disease’s spread diminished in April. Only Selby in North Yorkshire now has an infection rate above 100 per 100,000. For comparison, there were 23 authorities above this level at the end of March.
Experts said all numbers seemed to be “ very optimistic, ” indicating that Britain was “ over the worst ” of the pandemic and would never see the number of deaths and hospitalizations as high as in the darkest days of January due to the massive vaccination launch. To date, more than 50 million hits have been eliminated.
Boris Johnson’s ultra-cautious roadmap to get out of lockdown is set to start traveling abroad for people in England on May 17, with quarantine measures canceled for “ green ” countries with low infection rates and high vaccination levels.
But the list is expected to be small – and includes a few European destinations – amid concerns from some ministers that travel could spark a third wave and import dangerous variants.
Covid infection rates across the UK in the week ending April 27, the most recent available. And health department statistics showed that nine out of ten councils saw their cases drop over the course of April. The highest infection rate was in Selby, North Yorkshire
Holidays abroad “ must be eliminated ” until August, MPS warning
Members of Parliament say holidays abroad “should be discouraged” until August due to the threat of the third wave.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, a group of parliamentarians from different parties, said the travel ban should continue and only be reviewed every three months.
Their report states: “ The UK government should discourage all international leisure travel to prevent the import of new species into the UK, in order to reduce the risks of the third wave and further lockdowns.
This recommendation should be implemented promptly and reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Boris Johnson’s highly cautious roadmap to exit lockdowns is set to resume overseas holidays on May 17, when restrictions on overseas travel are lifted.
But ministers will put in place a traffic light system for trips, which will determine whether vacationers will have to quarantine upon their return to the UK.
Few countries are expected to be placed on the “green” list, with only Portugal in Europe, which means travelers will not have to quarantine.
Many of them are likely to become “orange,” requiring travelers to isolate them for 10 days upon return.
The Ministry of Health infection rates are calculated based on the number of people who tested positive in a region during the past seven days, divided by the population of that region. Then it gives a number for every 100,000 people to make it comparable.
Nearly a million Covid tests are done daily according to government statistics, but only a few thousand are currently catching the virus because the prevalence is so low.
The latest figures show that the majority of local councils now have an infection rate of less than 20 per 100,000, and three in Scotland – Midlothian, Comhurl Nan Ileane Sear and Shetland Islands – have reported no cases of COVID-19 in the past seven days.
Denbighshire, in North Wales, had the lowest Covid infection rate at 1 per 100,000, down 97 percent from the 41.8 recorded at the end of March.
Monmouthshire, also in Wales, had the second lowest rate at 3.2 per 100,000, followed by the Scottish Border at a rate of 3.5 per 100,000.
On the other hand, Selby had the highest infection rate in the country at 102.6 per 100,000, up 32 percent compared to the end of March.
But experts say this should not be a cause for concern because high levels of vaccination should keep the disease at bay, and the inevitable cases will rise as measures relax. They added that it was good news that there had been no spike so far during the April relaxation period.
Willie Selby Hyndburn and Lancashire (98.7 per 100,000), North Lincolnshire (78.4 per 100.00) and Mid Ulster (69.3 per 100,000).
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline: “ All major stats seem very optimistic at the moment: case numbers, results of the National Statistics Office infection survey, hospitalizations and deaths.
“I think we are over the worst in that I think we will not see the same amount of pressure on hospitals or as many deaths in the future as we have seen in the past few months.”
But he added, “But I think we are still far from being able to say that it’s over.
Most modelers expect another wave this year even as vaccination rates rise, and that doesn’t explain what the new variants might do.
However, due to the vaccine, we should see fewer severe cases in terms of the number of cases and also because of the high immunity, the restrictions needed to control the epidemic should not be strict.
Ministers threw countries onto the quarantine list without warning last summer, leaving some Britons emptying their pockets in a desperate bid to return home to bypass the deadline.
Paul Charles, a travel advisor close to the government talks, said at the time that the ban was based on cases reaching more than 20 cases per 100,000.
While some other parameters are measured and monitored by Professor Chris Whitty and his team, and Cabinet Ministers including Transportation Secretary Grant Shaps and Secretary of State Dominic Raab, such as a country’s health infrastructure and the medical authorities’ record on the ground, the case number is per 100, 000 is what’s important now, ‘he wrote in a column for Travel Weekly.
“Anything over 20 per 100,000 for seven days or more is likely to result in that country being added to the quarantine list.”
The holidays are set to resume on May 17, as ministers prepare to unveil a “traffic light” system that outlines which countries will require quarantine measures when vacationers return.
The government is set to unveil the list early next week – as millions of Britons are left in limbo over whether to book flights abroad.
Senior ministers are grappling with the size of the “green” list, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty among those pushing to keep green states as low as possible.
But other cabinet ministers have reportedly been pushing for a more flexible approach, insisting that the outbreak is under control in the UK and that high vaccination rates should keep the government on track to loosen further restrictions.
The government will calculate which countries to list based on rates of COVID-19 infection, vaccinations, and infection growth or decline, among other factors.
They were set to separate islands and countries, which could make holidays in regions like the Azores and Tenerife more bearable.
Portugal is expected to be one of the few places on the green list, along with Gibraltar, Malta and Israel.