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UK’s Boris Johnson ‘hopeful’ foreign travel can resume from May 17 – CNBC

Two friends sit on the sea wall on a warm sunny Easter Sunday at Chalkwell beach on April 04, 2021 in Southend-on-Sea, England.

John Keeble | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday it is too soon to make a decision on foreign travel but is “hopeful” it could resume as early as May 17

“But I do not wish to give hostages to fortune, or to underestimate the difficulties we are seeing in some of the destination countries that people might want to go to. We don’t want to see the virus reimported to this country,” he said at a press conference.

Johnson said a task force this week will set out a “reasonable” plan on nonessential travel abroad.

England has been in lockdown mode since late December as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with international travel restricted.

Once traveling abroad is allowed, quarantine rules will depend on a “traffic light system” – meaning that those traveling to countries on a “green” list will not be required to isolate upon their return to the U.K. Johnson said it was too soon to say which countries would be on which list.

The prime minister also mentioned coronavirus passports — or “Covid status certifications” — but said the government was working through “complicated, ethical and practical issues” relating to them. The documents, which are expected to state whether a person has been vaccinated, has recently tested negative for the coronavirus or has natural immunity, would likely be used for travel abroad, he added.

England’s lockdown is being gradually lifted, and people are now allowed to meet outside in groups of up to six. On Monday, the prime minister confirmed that shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality venues like pubs could open from April 12 as planned.

A couple of additional benchmark dates are on the horizon before all legal limits on social contact are removed, hopefully by the end of June.

“We set out our road map and we’re sticking with it,” Johnson stressed Monday.

However, the plan to fully reopen the economy will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, as well as on the country’s vaccination program.

So far, more than 31 million people in the U.K. have received their first dose. Over 5 million people have received their second vaccine.

Free rapid Covid tests

Earlier Monday, the government announced that everyone in England will be able to receive two rapid Covid tests for free each week.

Results of the tests are received within around 30 minutes. People living in England will be able to order the tests online or collect them locally, the government said. The plan, due to start Friday, comes as the country gears up to reopen stores and pubs in less than 10 days. Most have been closed since late 2020.

“This is a very important step forward, another step that will help us, with the easing of those restrictions, to get life back to normal in this country,” British Health Secretary Edward Argar told Sky News on Monday.