People who have had both doses of the coronavirus vaccine will be able to enjoy quarantine-free travel to amber list destinations under plans being revealed on Thursday.
In a Commons statement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will explain the terms under which holidaymakers from England who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to self-isolate for 10 days on their return.
The move will come as a huge boost to the travel industry which is pressing for restrictions to be eased from July 19 when lockdown controls are due to be lifted in England.
Ministers are expected to sign off on the final measures – including the exact timing – at a meeting of the Cabinet’s Covid-O committee ahead of Mr Shapps’ statement.
The move comes as a group of more than 120 scientists and medics called on the Government to halt its plans for lockdown lifting, describing them as a “dangerous and unethical experiment”.
In a letter to the Lancet, they warned millions more people will became infected if it goes ahead, leaving hundreds of thousands with long-term illness and disability through long Covid.
Signatories include Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the council of the British Medical Association, and Sir David King, a former government chief scientific adviser.
“This strategy risks creating a generation left with chronic health problems and disability, the personal and economic impacts of which might be felt for decades to come,” the letter said.
“Allowing transmission to continue over the summer will create a reservoir of infection, which will probably accelerate spread when schools and universities reopen in autumn.
“We believe the Government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19 2021.”
Wednesday saw a further 32,548 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the highest daily reported total since January 23, and a further 33 deaths.
The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital in England stood at 2,144 as of 8am on Wednesday, according to the latest figures from NHS England – up 43% from a week earlier and the highest number since April 10.
And a total of 416 hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England were reported for Monday, up 70% from a week earlier and the highest number since March 15.
In the Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the success of the vaccine rollout had “severed” the link between infections and serious disease and deaths.
His comments were criticised by some scientists after the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had previously said the vaccines had weakened, but not broken the link.
Speaking later to MPs ahead of Mr Shapps’ statement, the Prime Minister also hailed the vaccine programme as the “great liberator” when it came to foreign travel.
The decision to ease the quarantine requirements for amber list countries potentially opens key tourist destinations such as France, Greece, Italy and mainland Spain to British holidaymakers – although some may impose restrictions on visitors from the UK.
There has been frustration in the travel industry – which has been heavily hit by the pandemic – that the Government has not moved more swiftly to ease controls in the wake of the vaccine rollout.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren said: “For too long, Brits have been uncertain of when they can enjoy the same travel freedoms afforded by their jab as those in Europe and this is despite the huge success of our vaccination programme which has now successfully fully vaccinated around two thirds of UK adults.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, advised consumers to “lock in deals” before prices go up as “the Government is likely to announce a vaccine dividend for the fully-jabbed from July 19”.
Meanwhile former prime minister Tony Blair has called on the World Health Organisation to step in to agree a common set of standards for travel on vaccines, testing and travel credentials.
“The global confusion on travel requires a global solution,” he said.