Summer staycations should be encouraged over foreign holidays this year, according to scientific experts.
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: “This is a risk where you’ve got high rates of infection. I’m for staycations.”
Professor Sir Mark Walport, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, was asked on the same programme whether the Government should stop people travelling abroad, or make it difficult by enforcing quarantine after travel.
He replied: “I think this has to be driven by the data.
“Certainly at the moment many countries in Europe have got case numbers that are going up – there is 36,000 cases a day in France, 16,000 in Germany, 22,000 in Italy.
“The numbers speak for themselves.”
Overseas holidays are banned due to the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, but Boris Johnson plans to make an announcement on April 5 about lifting restrictions in England.
The Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report to the Prime Minister on April 12 setting out recommendations for how and when foreign holidays could resume.
Under England’s road map for easing pandemic rules, the earliest date that overseas leisure travel could be permitted is May 17.
Overnight stays in self-contained accommodation such as holiday lets were allowed to resume in Wales from Saturday, and could restart in England from April 12.
Sir Mark also expressed his belief that vaccine passports are “not inevitable”.
“It will be much easier to weigh up the pros and cons when we know much more accurately what the effects of the vaccine are,” he told Times Radio.
“We don’t know how long vaccination lasts but it’s likely to be a decent period of time.
“So I think these are questions that the policymakers are struggling with – they are difficult questions actually.
“And we should be getting the report from the group looking at this in the next week or two.”
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is heading up a Government review into “Covid status certificates”.
It is understood he is considering the possibility of the NHS coronavirus app featuring a digital health passport, which would carry details of vaccinations and negative test results.
Proof of a recent negative coronavirus test or having been vaccinated could then be used to attend events held within the UK or to gain entry to foreign countries, depending on border rules.