Boris hails another step towards freedom from coronavirus lockdown

Pints in the pub are BACK from Monday, you CAN hug granny, and a green light for staycations: Boris hails another step towards freedom – but social distancing rules will STILL be in place inside bars and cafes

  • Boris Johnson is unveiling the latest stage in his roadmap out of coronavirus lockdown at a briefing tonight 
  • Health chiefs say infections, hospital admissions and deaths have ‘fallen consistently’ over the past months
  • The move means coronavirus is now only in ‘general circulation’ and transmission is no longer ‘high or rising’
  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes across England will be able to seat customers inside again from Monday, May 17
  • Hotels, B&Bs, cinemas, theatres and museums are to reopen while limits on funeral mourners are scrapped 

Pints inside the pub are back from Monday, along with hugs for friends and  family and staycations, Boris Johnson said tonight.

The PM hailed a ‘very considerable step on the road back to normality’ as he said planned easings will go ahead in England on May 17. 

But he urged people to be cautious, saying the country must remain ‘vigilant’ about fuelling cases and the threat from variants.  

When the next stage in the roadmap is reached groups of six or two households will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months.

Overnight visits will also be allowed, while outdoors the limit will rise to 30 in the most significant loosening yet. 

Staycations can also get properly up and running, with hotels and B&Bs that do not have self-catering facilities permitted to open – as well as cinemas and theatres if audiences wear masks.   

Crucially the government has decided the risk is now low enough that social distancing can be left more to ‘personal choice’ – meaning that while people are urged to be ‘cautious’, hugs are allowed at private gatherings.  

However, despite the very low infection rate and stunning vaccine rollout, social distancing rules will still be maintained at bars and restaurants. 

Together with a requirement for table service indoors it means many venues will still struggle to make ends meet. 

Advice to work from home where possible will also stay in place. 

In other elements of the changes from next week, the much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events. 

Indoor sport and exercise classes can restart, along with sauna and steamrooms. And secondary pupils will no longer need to wear masks at schools in England. 

In a huge relief for many isolated elderly people and their families, care home residents will be able to have up to five named visitors – and up to two at once provided they are tested and follow guidelines. Residents will also have greater freedom to leave homes without having to isolate afterwards. 

As announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last week, a step is also being taken towards bringing back foreign holidays, with no quarantine requirements for those returning from 12 countries on the so-called green list. 

Mr Johnson thanked the public for their commitment as he said infections were now at the ‘lowest level since last July’. ‘The data now support moving to step three in England from next Monday 17th May,’ he said. 

The positive news came as the UK’s Covid alert level was downgraded to three amid the success of the vaccination roll-out and dwindling case numbers.

Health chiefs say infections, hospital admissions and deaths have ‘fallen consistently’ over the past few months, with social distancing measures and the huge inoculation drive to thank.

The decision by all four chief medical officers and a senior NHS official means coronavirus is now only in ‘general circulation’ and transmission is no longer ‘high or rising exponentially’. 

It will inevitably be used as fuel for scientists and Tories desperate for a quicker return to normal. Even one of No10’s scientific advisers on a sub-panel of SAGE has claimed restrictions could be ‘safely accelerated’. 

The Prime Minister has been repeatedly urged to stick to his ‘data, not dates’ pledge for easing restrictions in England, despite refusing to budge in the face of very low infection rates and a hugely successful vaccination drive. Deaths have fallen into single figures while cases are at similar levels to September.

Earlier, health minister Nadine Dorries set hares running by seeming to suggest the June 21 date for ending lockdown altogether could be brought forward.

But Mr Johnson this evening insisted that the roadmap was still on track for the existing deadline – merely insisting that the government would be giving businesses more warning than planned about exactly what will happen after June 21.

He said that would include information about what role there would be ‘if any for certification and social distancing’.  

The move to downgrade the alert level — agreed by all four of the UK’s chief medical officers and a senior NHS official — means the coronavirus is now only in ‘general circulation’ and transmission is no longer ‘high or rising exponentially’

Boris Johnson (pictured running this morning) will herald a return to freedom tonight, vowing that ‘Covid will not beat us’. On the back of stunning Tory local election victories, he will say the success of the vaccine rollout allows for further easing of lockdown

Bolton is revealed as UK hotspot for new Indian Covid strain as infection rates soar 

Public health officers in Bolton are going door-to-door in a bid to control the spread of the B16172 Indian coronavirus variant.

Indian variant cases have soared over the last week and Public Health officials say almost half the cases are related to travel or contact with a traveller.

The cases are spread across the country, however, the majority of the cases are in London and the North West, predominantly Bolton.

Residents living in the Bolton boroughs of Rumworth, Deane and Great Lever are being told to expect a knock on the door.

They will be told about new measures in place to stop the transmission of the variant.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England (PHE) said: ‘We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely.

‘We have taken the decision to classify this as a variant of concern because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 is a more transmissible variant.’

Bolton has been revealed as the UK hotspot for the new Covid 19 strain detected in India which has been escalated to a ‘variant of concern’.

Urgent measures to contain the variant are in the works in the town including surge testing and a strengthened vaccination campaign urging people to get the jab.

Areas within the BL3 postcode in Bolton, Greater Manchester, registered a small number of cases of the variant, leading to widespread testing.

There are 520 confirmed cases of the strain in the country, up from 202 the previous week. 

As Britain’s daily Covid death toll fell to just two with 1,770 confirmed infections:

  • The head of the Oxford vaccine group predicted Britons would soon be living without masks and social distancing;
  • The Daily Mail-backed campaign for a national memorial for Covid victims at St Paul’s Cathedral topped £1.3million;
  • Michael Gove said officials were involved in talks over moving the UEFA Champions League final from Turkey to the UK to save fans of Chelsea and Manchester City from a travel ban;
  • The nurse who gave the first ever Covid-19 vaccination, May Parsons, proposed a National Thank You Day should take place on July 4;
  • Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19, called for a cautious return to normal life as he said ‘we can’t go on mothballing ourselves forever’;
  • The cost of flying to Portugal plunged over the weekend with Ryanair putting on dozens of flights to Faro, Lisbon and Porto shortly after the country was cleared for quarantine-free trips from May 17;

The Covid Recovery Group (CRG) — a group of around 70 Tory MPs — today called for Mr Johnson to commit to scrapping all social distancing measures on June 21 to ensure the nation is ‘truly on the “one way road to freedom” that the Prime Minister promised’.

Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, said England was in a ‘very strong position’ to move forward with the easing of restrictions which will enable people to ‘try and get back to normal’. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme the prospect of people being able to hug their loved ones again was ‘great’.

On the Government’s ultra-cautious roadmap, he said: ‘I think we’ll still probably go steady but perhaps a bit faster, I’ll be interested to see what the Government announces. I’m feeling pretty comfortable with where we are at the moment.’

Legislation in the Queen’s Speech tomorrow will be directed at the nation’s recovery from Covid, backing the NHS and spreading opportunity.  

Despite the alert level being downgraded to three today, health chiefs warned Britain isn’t out of the woods yet.

A statement from the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as NHS England national medical director Stephen Powys said: ‘Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the UK chief medical officers and NHS England national medical director agree that the UK alert level should move from level four to level three.

‘Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and Covid hospital pressures have fallen consistently.

‘However Covid is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant. This remains a major pandemic globally.

‘It is very important that we all continue to follow the guidance closely and everyone gets both doses of the vaccine when they are offered it.’

Britain was at level five during the peak of the second wave in January because there was a ‘material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed’. 

The UK’s alert level was last downgraded at the end of February, when it went from five to four because the immediate threat to the NHS had ‘receded’. 

Mr Johnson gathered ministers this morning to approve moving to step three of the roadmap out of lockdown next Monday after the Government said the latest data confirmed its four tests for easing restrictions had been met.

Officials believe that lifting the curbs is unlikely to risk a resurgence in virus infections.

Ms Dorries told Sky News this morning hugs and physical contact are ‘massively important’ and that the roadmap is ‘on course’. 

She said: ‘I think it’s what most people have missed, that intimate contact with family and friends, and entertaining, having people in your own house, meeting outdoors.’ 

Ms Dorries added: ‘It does look as though the roadmap is on course, but we do so with caution, ensuring that the data is in place and looking forward to – and with excitement to – the fact that we will able to hug our family and friends soon.

‘So, caution balanced with optimism, I think, is the way forward.’

Tory MPs have been pushing for faster progress, with scientists including Professor Carl Heneghan, director at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford, suggesting it would be a good idea.

Professor Heneghan told The Telegraph that ‘it’s going to be difficult to open everything up in a big bang’. 

But he added: ‘I think at some point we’ve got to get back to a normality and see what happens. And we want to do that when it’s summer and infections are low.’

Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, told the newspaper: ‘I think there is scope for moving more quickly. 

‘In my view, it could be safely accelerated. I’d go further and say that this has been the case for several weeks. I’d judge that the UK is already close to a point that we didn’t expect to have reached until late June.

‘I understand the desire for caution but this lockdown, like all lockdowns, is causing harm. Restrictions may have been justified in February but they are much harder to justify now.’

Professor Sir John Bell said data from vaccination programmes from the UK, Israel and the US showed a ‘rather rapid fall-off’ in cases of disease, hospital admissions and deaths. 

He said: ‘There’s some very interesting data that shows that even from a single dose of vaccine, when you move from where the US was a couple of weeks ago, which was about 43 per cent of people having a single dose through where we were with 51 per cent – we’re now higher than that to Israel, which was 58 per cent.

Don’t hug too much, keep them short and wear a MASK: Cautious SAGE scientist warns embraces should be kept to a minimum

Don’t hug too often, keep embraces short and avoid face-to-face contact, is the message from No10’s cautious scientific advisers ahead of the next major relaxation of Covid rules.  

Boris Johnson will announce England’s next steps out of lockdown at a 5pm Downing Street press conference today, where he is expected to confirm that friends and can hug each other again from May 17. 

Professor Cath Noakes, who sits on SAGE, has urged caution ahead of the relaxation, warning that too much hugging could ‘perpetuate’ Covid’s spread. 

She advised that if people are going to hug others, it should be restricted ‘to very small numbers of close family who perhaps you really value a hug from’ and suggested wearing masks to be safe.

‘I think don’t hug too frequently, keep it short, try and avoid being face-to-face, so perhaps turn your face away slightly, and even wearing a mask could help,’ she told the BBC. 

Professor Noakes, an expert in airborne infections at the University of Leeds, backed allowing vaccinated grandparents to hug their grandchildren, claiming that the risk of transmission was very low, even though it was not zero.

But she said it would worry her if ‘we were advocating we could hug all of our friends every time we meet them again’. 

This would ‘perpetuate an awful lot of additional close contact that could spread the virus’, she added. 

‘You see a rather rapid fall-off in cases of disease, but also hospitalisations and deaths, and it’s a really very striking fall in all those things.

‘I do think that we’re in a very strong position to go forward now with fewer restrictions and try and get back to normal.’

Almost 15million men and women in England now have ‘maximum protection’ against the virus, having received two doses of the vaccine. Two in three adults – 29.6million – have had at least one dose.

The Government said it was on track to offer all adults a first dose by the end of July.

Infection rates are at the lowest level since September and hospital admissions continue to fall, or plateau in some areas, with levels similar to those seen in July last year.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said of the jab success: ‘This milestone is yet more evidence of the huge national vaccination effort we are in the middle of.

‘I pay tribute to the huge team – NHS staff, councils and of course our wonderful volunteers who are working so hard to deliver vaccines in all parts of the United Kingdom.

‘The vaccine is our way out of this pandemic and tens of thousands of lives are being saved but the job is not yet done. I urge everyone, when the time comes, to get the jab.’

The ongoing success of the vaccination drive has increased hopes of a return to something close to normal life by the last stage in the PM’s roadmap, scheduled for June 21.  

Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial, said: ‘There is a future with no social distancing and no more masks, but from a global perspective we’re still a long way from that.

‘Here in the UK we’ve had remarkable success through the vaccine programme and that is getting closer to happening.’ 

Dr David Nabarro, special envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, said that ‘we can’t go on mothballing ourselves forever’ as he pushed for a cautious reopening of society. 

He told Sky News: ‘I’m pleased with the reality that people are being quite cautious, perhaps even a little bit afraid, of what this virus might bring.

‘But I think, at the same time, we’ve got to get on with life, and we can’t go on mothballing ourselves forever.

‘So, finding a way to restart, despite this fear, is what I think we will have to do. We must maintain a very vigilant posture in the coming months because there will no doubt be variants appearing.

With one in three adults now jabbed twice, the Prime Minister will declare that friends and relatives can – from next Monday – hug for the first time in a year (left, grandparents hug their grandchildren). Pubs (pictured right: Friends drink in a pub last year), restaurants and cafes across England will be able to seat customers inside again. And gatherings of up to six people or two households will be allowed indoors

Vaccinated Britons who catch Covid get a milder form of the disease and suffer fewer tell-tale symptoms, study warns

Vaccinated Britons who catch Covid experience a milder illness, according to data from a symptom-tracking app.

King’s College London epidemiologists found only a third of those with at least one dose got the ‘classic’ symptoms — a high temperature, new continuous cough and loss of taste and smell.

For comparison, among people who had not been jabbed more than half suffered the normal warning signs.

Numerous studies have found coronavirus vaccines currently being deployed in the UK are very effective at stopping people spreading the virus or becoming infected, and drastically cut the rates of hospitalisation and death. 

But no jab is perfect. Some vaccinated people will still get infected, meaning they could be struck down with symptoms. 

Scientists point out, however, that the symptoms they suffer are far ‘less severe’ than if they had not been vaccinated.

More than two thirds of adults — 35.3million — have now received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine. Almost 18million adults — 33.5 per cent — are fully inoculated.

‘But, at the same time, we have to get on with life so we have to just be on the lookout for new spikes of disease and deal with them when they come.’

Dr Nabarro said he would urge people to maintain social distancing and keep using face masks in the future. 

‘On the one hand we’ve got a dangerous virus, on the other hand we must get on with life because it just can’t go on with the restrictions that people have had up till now,’ he said. 

‘Finding that middle path, how to live with this virus’s constant threat, is key.

‘If I were able to talk to everybody personally over the coming weeks, I would say: You must restart life and everybody wants you to do that, but please be really careful, maintain that physical distance of between one metre and two metres, especially indoors, and don’t forget to wear your face masks because that really can give extra protection.

‘It’s these simple things, but all done together that will really make the difference as to whether or not future spikes are huge or future spikes are small and easily contained.’

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove said it was ‘the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something we want to see restored’. 

The prospect of customers being allowed back to indoor hospitality settings has been welcomed by business chiefs. 

John Foster from the Confederation of British Industry said: ‘It’s encouraging to see the roadmap remains on track, with the certainty it’s provided businesses so far already appearing evident in recent economic data. All firms should be commended for their continuing efforts in keeping staff and customers safe.

‘The Government can inject further momentum into the economic recovery by providing companies with clarity on outstanding issues, including social distancing, Covid status certificates and the future of workplace testing beyond June 21.

‘Getting answers will help business cement the gains so far, laying strong foundations for the recovery, and support the planned full reopening of the economy without delay.’

The continued smooth progress through the different stages in the PM’s roadmap has prompted increased economic optimism. 

The Bank of England forecast last week that the UK economy would grow 7.25 per cent this year – the fastest peacetime rate in nearly a century.

What CAN you do from May 17? Britons will be able to hug ‘close friends and family’, drink a pint INSIDE a pub and finally go on holiday again as limit on mourners at funerals is lifted and cinemas, museums and hotels reopen 

Hugs with family and friends and indoor socialising will be allowed from next Monday after a further easing of Covid-19 rules in England was confirmed today.

The next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown will go ahead as planned on May 17, with up to six people or two different households allowed to meet indoors.

Most social contact rules outdoors will be lifted, although gatherings of more than 30 outdoors will stay illegal until at least June 21 – the final stage of the roadmap.

But indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas, theatre and soft play areas and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will all reopen.

The rest of the accommodation sector will also return, with people from different households now allowed to mix in hotels and self-catering properties.

The much-criticised cap on the number of mourners at funerals will be lifted, while up to 30 people will be allowed at weddings and other life events.

More than 50million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK as the Government said it is on track to offer all adults a first dose by the end of July. 

Here, MailOnline looks at what your newfound freedoms will be from May 17: 

Can people come over to my house again?

Yes. Up to six people from multiple households or an unlimited number of people from two households will be allowed to visit you inside your house again.

Can people stay over at my house again?

Yes. People from outside your household will be allowed to stay overnight, as long as you stick to within the rule of six or two households.

Can I still meet people outside?

Yes. You will now be able to meet in groups of up to 30 people outside. Bigger groups will be illegal. Until May 17, you can still only meet outside in groups of six.

A member of bar staff wearing a face masks serves drink in a pub in East London in July 2020

Can I hug my friends and family again?

Yes. The Government has said you can hug ‘close friends and family’ from outside your own household – for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020.

However, people are being urged to be ‘exercise their own personal judgement in line with the risks.’ There is no legal definition on who ‘close friends and family’ are.  

The Government also said wider social distancing rules will remain in place in adult social care, medical, retail, hospitality and business settings.

Can you sit inside a pub again?

Yes, indoor hospitality will resume – so you can sit inside a pub or restaurant with people from other households, as long as the rule of six (or two households) is met.

Will there be a substantial meal or curfew requirement for pubs?

No. As with step two on April 12, venues will not have to serve a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks; nor will there be a curfew.

An audience sit at the Pavilion theatre in Weymouth for a pantomime in December last year

Will you be able to stand at the bar?

No. Customers will still have to order, eat and drink while seated at a hospitality venue – even though they will now be allowed inside.

Will indoor entertainment venues now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres, museums and indoor children’s play areas will all be allowed to reopen, but must follow guidelines on social distancing and face masks.

Concert halls, conference centres and sports stadia will also be allowed to reopen, with larger events in all venues able to resume with capacity limits (see below). 

Will venues face capacity limits?

Yes. Larger performances and sporting events will be capped in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full, whichever is a lower number. For outdoor venues the cap will be 4,000 people or half-full – again, whichever is lower.

In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend – or a quarter-full, whichever is lower.

Football fans at Wembley Stadium at a pilot event for the FA Cup semi-final last month 

Will social distancing and face masks rules remain for now?

Yes. The one-metre (3ft) rule remains in place in public settings such as pubs, shops and restaurants. You should wear a face mask when walking around these places.

What about children wearing masks in schools?

Secondary school children will no longer have to wear face masks in classrooms and corridors from May 17. However, those aged 11 and above will still be required to wear the masks in public settings such as shops, unless they have a medical exemption.

Ministers said infection rates among students and staff continue to decrease in line with wider community transmission, but twice weekly home testing will remain. 

Will students be able to attend university lectures in person again?

Yes. All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching. They will be expected to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

Most students, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8. But it is estimated that about half of university students have not been eligible to return to in-person lessons.

Cinema-goers in their seats for a film at the Odeon Leicester Square in London last August

Can I go on holiday abroad again?

Yes, but with many restrictions. Last Friday, the UK Government cleared just 12 destinations for quarantine-free tourist trips for Britons from May 17.

However, many of the destinations are remote islands or have very strict entry measures or blanket bans on UK tourists, further reducing the list of options.

Portugal and Gibraltar are the only countries on the ‘green list‘ that most Britons will realistically be able to visit for a warm weather holiday this month (see below).

You can technically also go on holiday to ‘amber list’ and ‘red list’ countries again too, but you will need to complete a period of quarantine as follows:

For amber list, you must quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight.

Or there is an alternative option that you could pay for an additional ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. There is also a chance the country turns red.

Those returning from a red list country must stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 11 nights upon their return at a cost of £1,750.

Will there be a new limit on wedding numbers?

Yes. Up to 30 people will now be able to attend weddings. This limit will also apply to other types of significant life events including bar mitzvahs and christenings.

Will funerals also now be limited to 30 people?

No. There will now be no limit of the number of mourners at funerals, although the venue must operate in a socially distanced way and within capacity guidelines.

Travellers arrive at London Heathrow Airport on May 3. Non-essential travel is set to reopen

Can you stay overnight somewhere with people from another family?

Yes. The rest of the accommodation sector will now reopen, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs – and people from different households can share the same room.

Up until May 17, if you want to stay at a hotel or self-catering accommodation, you must only do so with members of your own household or support bubble.

Can I go to indoor sport classes now?

Yes. All indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will be allowed again, five weeks after gyms were allowed to reopen under step two on April 12.

Will closed parts of leisure centres now be allowed to reopen?

Yes. Saunas and steam rooms will now be allowed to reopen, following on from swimming pools and gyms on April 12.

There will be no more limits on mourners at funerals. Above: File picture of a funeral last July

Will there be limits on numbers in support groups?

Yes. The Government has said 30 people will now be able to attend a support group or parent and child group. The limit does not include children aged under five.

Will restrictions on care home visiting be changed?

Yes. Care home visiting will be eased further, with residents able to have up to five named visitors and more freedom to make ‘low risk visits’ out of the home.

Will the guidance on working from home change?

No. People are still being advised to ‘continue to work from home where they can’.

Hugs with family and friends will be allowed again from May 17 (file picture posed by models)

What is the exact time that the rules change on May 17?

Unconfirmed. This is not yet clear, but the April 12 rule change towards step two came in at midnight, so it is likely this will be the same for May 18.

Are there businesses that still cannot reopen?

Yes. Nightclubs are the only businesses that must remain shut until at least June 21.

Is there a confirmed date for when all Covid rules will cease?

Not yet. The Government hopes that on June 21 it will be able to drop all legal limits on social contact, but this will be confirmed nearer the time.

Before this date, the Government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures such as face masks and guidance on working from home.

All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching (file)

Why can we now move into Step 3 on May 17?

The Government has set four tests to further ease restrictions, which have now been met. These are that:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully;
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated;
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS;
  • Assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

It also comes after the UK Chief Medical Officers confirmed this morning that the UK Covid-19 alert level should move from level four to level three.

How double-jabbed Brits could take advantage of the ‘Lisbon loophole’ and take NO tests on holiday – and everything you NEED to know about trips abroad from next Monday

Britons may be able to use a new ‘Lisbon Loophole’ to enjoy a weekend away when Portugal joins the ‘green list’ from next Monday, MailOnline can reveal today.

To take advantage, tourists with both Covid jabs must take a free NHS lateral flow test in the UK just before heading to their airport for a flight to Portugal on a Friday.

They can then use the negative result at British passport control when they return to the UK within 72 hours of that lateral flow test, such as on Sunday evening.

In theory the travel perk, dubbed the ‘Lisbon Loophole’, means that holidaymakers on weekend breaks will be able to completely skip taking a test while in Portugal.

Paul Charles, from the PC Agency travel consultancy, told MailOnline: ‘Portugal is yet to confirm its entry requirements but they are expected to allow Britons with two Covid jabs – and a digital certificate to prove it – entry without a PCR test.

‘They can then present their negative lateral flow test result taken on the day they flew out at the UK border when they return within 72 hours, and it won’t matter it that it was done before the left the country. They would still have to take a PCR two days after returning home, but the loophole could easily save a couple £160.’

With just 12 destinations cleared for quarantine-free trips from next Monday, Britons are scrambling to work out where they might be able to go on holiday.

Many of the destinations are remote or have very strict entry measures or blanket bans on UK tourists, further narrowing the choice of where to go on holiday.

Portugal and Gibraltar are the only countries on the ‘green list’ that most Britons will realistically be able to visit for a warm weather getaway this month.

But the various Covid-19 testing requirements need to be checked before tourists book a trip, because they vary between countries even on this short list.

Today, MailOnline looks at key questions on what it all means for holidaymakers:

What are the travel lists?

They determine the quarantine and Covid-19 testing requirements people will face when returning to England once the ban on overseas leisure travel is lifted on May 17.


What is the green list?

Travellers returning from a country on the green list will not need to quarantine, and will only have to take one post-arrival test. It will come into force at 4am on May 17.

Which countries are on the green list?

It consists of Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Gibraltar, Israel (including Jerusalem), Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

There are also several small remote islands including the Falklands; South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands; and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Is travel possible to all the countries on the green list? 

No, borders in many green list countries remain closed, including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Travel to many of the small islands is also very difficult.

Where can you go?

Portugal plans to welcome UK tourists who have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their departure, have recovered from the virus and therefore have antibodies, or had both vaccine doses.

Gibraltar will not require UK visitors to be tested or vaccinated. Israel will reopen its border on May 23 only to groups of foreign tourists who have had both jabs.

Rossio square in Lisbon is pictured in January, ahead of the influx of UK visitors expected soon

What Covid-19 tests will you have to take? 

People must take a lateral flow test within 72 hours of their return flight to England, followed by a PCR test on or before the second day of their return.

Which jobs qualify for travel exemptions? 

If you do one of the following jobs you may qualify for an exemption from one or more of the Covid-related travel restrictions:

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Aircraft pilots and crew
  • BBC broadcasting transmission network and services
  • Border security duties – UK officials and contractors
  • Border security duties – non-UK officials and contractors
  • Bus and coach drivers
  • Channel Tunnel system workers
  • Civil aviation inspectors
  • Clinical trials or studies
  • Crown servants or government contractors
  • Data infrastructure maintenance
  • Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
  • Diplomatic missions, international organisations and conferences
  • Downstream oil facility workers
  • Drivers of goods vehicles
  • Electronic communications networks
  • Elite sportspersons – domestic
  • Elite sportspersons – international
  • Environment Agency relating to flood and coastal erosion risk management
  • Eurostar International workers
  • Eurotunnel workers
  • High Speed 2 rail workers
  • International prison escorts
  • IT and telecoms workers
  • Medical evacuation
  • Medical treatment
  • Urgent medical treatment
  • Medicines – human and veterinary
  • Network Rail workers
  • Nuclear personnel
  • Nuclear emergency responder
  • Nurses from red list countries coming to take up NHS employment
  • Offshore oil and gas
  • OPCW and IAEA inspectors
  • Postal workers
  • Quality assurance inspectors for human and veterinary medicines
  • Regular work abroad
  • Regular work in the UK, living abroad
  • Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories
  • Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships
  • Seasonal agricultural workers
  • Specialist technical workers – sub-sea telecommunications infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers – goods and services
  • Specialist technical workers – waste
  • Specialist technical workers – power infrastructure
  • Specialist technical workers – space infrastructure
  • Transiting through the UK (layovers)
  • Transporting human cells or blood
  • Water supplies and sewerage services workers

Travellers will not be required to self-isolate during this time. The UK Government is considering providing free lateral flow testing kits for holidaymakers to take abroad. 

People are also likely to need proof of a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of your outbound flight, but this depends on the destination’s requirements (see above). 

What is the Lisbon Loophole? 

The ‘Lisbon Loophole’ has been suggested by travel experts as a cost-effective way of visiting Portugal for a weekend trip – but only if you have received both Covid jabs.

Those with both jabs can get into Portugal without needing a test, but will still have to have taken a lateral flow test within 72 hours of their return flight to England.

But there will be no need to take the lateral flow test on holiday if you are only there for a few days – and your return flight is within 72 hours of having that test in Britain.

The test in Britain could be done at an NHS testing centre for free. However, you will still need to take a PCR test on or before the second day of your return to the UK.  

What do you have to do before returning to England?

Before travellers make their way back to England, they must complete a passenger locator form, take a Covid-19 test, and book and pay for a day two Covid-19 test. 

What do you have to do upon your arrival in England?

You must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive. You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

You must self-isolate if NHS Test and Trace informs you that you travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

How much is a test?  

The price of PCR tests has fallen significantly in recent weeks. Having previously cost up to £200, one government-approved provider, Eurofins, is now charging just £45.  

Tui has holiday packages with all ‘green list’ tests from £60 per person, while it is only £20 for countries that do not need a negative PCR test before you go.

Boots has launched an in-store PCR testing service for £99, while a self-test home kit is available for £65. 

Boots also offers an in-store lateral flow test for £80 at 15 of its outlets. 

Can I visit the Falkland Islands?

Technically yes, but practically no. There is a twice-weekly direct flight to the Falklands through the RAF from Brize Norton and operated by AirTanker, known as ‘the airbridge’. 

The return fare is a fixed-rate at £2,222 per non-resident adult. But anyone arriving into the Falkland Islands at the moment is expected to self-isolate for 14 days, and the use of the ‘airbridge’ is restricted to essential travel only.

What if you have been in a country or territory on the red or amber list?

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the red list in the ten days before you arrive in England, you must follow the red list rules.

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the amber list in the ten days before you arrive in England, and have not visited a country on the red list, you must follow the amber list rules. 

Gibraltar (file picture) will not require visitors from Britain to be tested or vaccinated  

What happens if you have been to an amber list country?

This covers holiday destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ‘you should not be travelling to these places right now’.

All university students can return to in-person teaching next week 

All university students in England can return to campus next week for in-person teaching, the Government confirmed today.

Returning students will be expected to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week throughout the rest of the summer term.

The decision came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that more indoor mixing and social contact will be able to take place from May 17.

Most students in England, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown announced in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8. 

But it is estimated that about half of university students have not been eligible to return to in-person lessons.

University leaders have previously criticised the Government for delaying the return of face-to-face lessons for all students until near the end of the academic year, with one vice-chancellor calling the decision ‘unfathomable’.

Returning students are encouraged to take a test via home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to term-time accommodation.

All students will then be encouraged to take three supervised lateral flow devices (LFD) tests three to four days apart at an asymptomatic testing site on campus, and then they will be expected to be tested two times a week.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: ‘Our priority from the very start of this pandemic has been to help students complete their courses and graduate as planned, which is why I am pleased that the Prime Minister has today confirmed all remaining students can return to in-person teaching from May 17 as part of Step 3 of the Government’s road map.

‘It is vital that we make every effort to keep us all as safe as possible, and every student will be offered three tests on return to campus.

‘I would strongly encourage students to make use of the free tests available to them.’

The Department for Education (DfE) has worked with the Office for Students (OfS) and universities to launch a guide to help students who have graduated during the pandemic to build skills and secure a job.

Ms Donelan added: ‘I know that entering the jobs market can be daunting, particularly during a global pandemic, but I know that employers will recognise the resilience and strength of this year’s graduates and the essential role they will play in this country’s recovery.’

You will have to quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight.

Or there is an alternative option that you could pay for an additional ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. There is also a chance the country turns red. 

What happens if you have been to a red list country?

Those returning from a red list country must stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for 11 nights upon their return at a cost of £1,750. 

How is the Government deciding what list a country should be on?

The list is based on factors including a country’s vaccination programme, rates of infection, emerging new variants and access to reliable scientific data.

How often will the green list be reviewed?

Every three weeks, with the prospect of more countries being put onto the ‘green list’ after the first review on June 7.

What about vaccine passports?

From May 17, people in England who have had a full vaccine course of two doses, will be able to demonstrate this status for outbound international travel. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that people in England will be able to demonstrate they have had both doses of a vaccine through the NHS app.

What about travelling through amber or red list countries to get home?

When you arrive in England you need to follow the rules for the highest risk country or territory that you have been in or passed through in the previous ten days. 

This includes transit stops – defined as ‘a stop where passengers can get on or off the same part of the transport in which you are travelling’.  

The rules of a country or territory that you make a transit stop in could apply if a) new passengers get on and are able to mix with you, or b) you or other passengers get off the transport you are on and mix with other people, then get on again.

In what case would a transit stop not affect what you have to do on arrival in England?

Only if a) no new passengers, who are able to mix with you, get on; b) no one on-board gets off and mixes with people outside; or c) passengers get off but do not get back on.

What about if travelling in a private vehicle through amber or red list countries?

If you are travelling to England in a private vehicle, the rules of the countries and territories you drive through apply. 

For example, if you drive through an amber list country, then you must follow the amber list rules when you arrive in England.

This applies whether you stop in the country or territory or not. You need to record the countries and territories you drive through on your passenger locator form. 

What about travelling within the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man?

You do not need to take a Covid-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England if you are travelling within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

This is defined as the ‘Common Travel Area’. You also must not have been outside of the Common Travel Area in the previous ten days. 

What about travelling abroad from England before May 17?

Until May 17, you can only travel abroad from England if you have a legally permitted reason to do so. You must also complete a declaration form for international travel.  

Will other popular destinations such as Spain be added to the green list soon?

Spain has vaccinated almost 30 per cent of its population with the first dose, meaning it could well be added on June 7. Greece has so far vaccinated 22 per cent. 

France has inoculated 25 per cent of its population with a first dose, while Italy is at 26 per cent. Both are likely to hit 40 per cent by early June, so could also be added.

Can people living in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland go on a foreign holiday?

The devolved administrations have not set dates for the restart of overseas leisure travel, although announcements are expected in the coming days. 


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