UK government ministers have confirmed this week that they are considering relaxing restrictions surrounding international travel for Brits who have had both doses of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
As is being reported by the Telegraph, Sky News, and The Guardian, changes are being considered to the traffic light travel system under – where countries are graded according to their COVID case and jab rate to determine the need for isolation for travellers returning from them to the UK.
A government spokesperson has told Sky News that it is “working with industry for a safe return to international travel, guided by one overwhelming priority – public health”.
They added: “Recognising the strong strategic rationale and success of the vaccine programme, we have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel.”
If the new plan is approved, it could mean that Brits who are fully vaccinated will not need to quarantine upon their return from some of the most popular destinations – including the US and several countries across Europe.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to be open to the idea, according to the Telegraph.
The relaxing of international travel restrictions for the fully-vaccinated may also help appease a furious air travel industry – with Ryanair and the owner of the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) having launched legal action against the government this morning.
Papers have been filed to the High Court to seek clarity over the transparency of the traffic light system amid frustration over the lack of green list destinations.
Green: Arrivals must take a pre-departure test and PCR test before their return to the UK – but will not need to quarantine when they arrive.
Amber: Arrivals must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Britain and take a pre-departure test, as well as two further PCR tests.
Red: Arrivals must stay for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel, taking a pre-departure test and two further PCR tests.
Only a handful of countries currently appear on the UK’s “green list” for travel, where tourists are not required to quarantine once they return.
At present, Brits are being advised not to travel to “amber list” countries – which includes popular holiday hotspots such as Spain and France – as government guidelines state that they must quarantine at home for 10 days after upon return.
But the introduction of relaxed international travel rules could mean breaks to amber list countries would be permitted for those fully-vaccinated just as the summer holiday season gets in full swing.
Jesse Norman, the financial secretary to the Treasury, told Kay Burley on Sky News this morning that the government was “certainly looking at all the options here”, adding that: “We don’t want to get left behind by countries which may be adopting a two jabs approach if it can be done safely and if it can be done carefully and securely.”
He also admitted that the idea that under-30s – the majority of whom have only recently had the chance to get their first jab – would be discriminated against if travel restrictions were based on vaccination status was “certainly a consideration to be borne in mind”.
“Of course the under-30s do not have anything like the same vulnerability to the disease that people older do,” he added.
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.
GMP officers in the Bolton district are keen to hear from anyone with information that could lead to the suspects described above.
Detective Inspector, Stuart Woodhead of Bolton’s CID said: “We understand this will be a worrying incident for those in the local area, but rest assured we are working hard to identify the two suspects and continue to increase patrols as a result to offer visible reassurance.
“This happened in broad daylight in a public place, so we would urge anyone with details either of the incident or who may know who the two suspects are to come forward in confidence as our investigation continues and we look at all possible lines of enquiry.”
The GMP statement added: “If anyone has any information they are urged to ring the district direct on 0161 856 5757. Alternatively details can be shared via the LiveChat portal on gmp.police.uk or anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”