Good news for some as the Government confirmed this morning that summer holidays abroad will be possible after all. Less good news for the many who would be priced out by testing costs. In the new “traffic light” system, where countries are coded according to Covid-19 risk, any travel overseas will require at least one PCR test on return, which risks making it unaffordable for most families. At present, a trip to Greece costs an estimated £370 per person. For France, it’s £420.
Making travel fair is something the Government must address with some urgency. It’s clear we must continue to test those who enter the country in order to lower the risk of introducing new variants which could undo the progress we have made towards opening up again. Boris Johnson’s more cautious approach to releasing lockdown this year is welcome too — last year’s over-optimism tended to cause confusion when the Government was inevitably obliged to row back.
Johnson has learned his lesson and is no longer over-promising. Neither can we expect our leaders to predict the progress of a mutating virus too far in advance. But we should beware of creating a two-tier system where only the rich can travel. Making PCR tests cheaper for travel must be a priority.
The Government must also be clearer about its position on vaccine passports for going overseas. This is vital not only for those planning trips abroad, but also for the struggling aviation industry, which employs some 350,000 in the UK, of which a large proportion are based in London. Allowing London’s airports to become thriving hubs once more will be key to the city’s recovery, which itself will be key to the recovery of the country at large.
In the meantime we hope the UK will take advantage of the delights of its capital city this summer. The tourism board and the Mayor must work hard to entice Brits to holiday in London — after all, we have spent a year with almost no culture, not to mention fun nights out in Soho. Surely the city can offer as many holiday joys as Cornwall and in the absence of foreign tourists our restaurants, hotels and theatres will need the business.
Trapped indoors for months with only the occasional trudge in a park to leaven the gloom, it is little wonder Londoners have been feeling miserable. This week’s Arctic weather — snow in April — hasn’t helped.
But forecasts are brighter next week. Hurrah for Monday which will bring not only sunnier weather but the prospect of gathering as a group of six outside one of London’s glorious pubs, bars, or restaurants (perhaps with a hot water bottle on our laps), and sampling a little of normal life again. For households and individuals yearning to escape the city, there is the chance to spend a weekend away. And for those whose hair has become truly strange over lockdown, there is the option of once again visiting a hairdresser or barber.
Of course, all these options require a modicum of organisation. The less organised among us will emerge into a world of greater freedoms only to find that the majority of the country’s Airbnbs and bed and breakfasts, as well as London’s hairdressers, have long been booked up by the sharp-elbowed.
Still, we can all take comfort in the prospect of a loosening of restrictions, cheerful faces sitting out on pavements, and warmer weather. Bring on the summer!