Scientist warns that unfettered international travel could ‘undo vaccine progress’

The Canary

Keeping borders open for international travel could risk undoing vaccine progress, a scientist has warned.

Dr Mike Tildesley is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), which advises the Government. He’s said that allowing overseas trips without efficient testing and tracing in place could enable a vaccine-evading variant to enter the UK.

Under current guidelines, it’s illegal to travel abroad for holidays. But travel for a range of professions including defence personnel and some HGV drivers is permitted.

Red list

Travellers returning from countries included on the ‘red list’, where coronavirus cases are higher, must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Ministers are facing pressure to protect the success of the vaccination programme against the import of new variants from overseas. It comes as the Guardian reported that officials met on Friday 26 March to consider expanding the red list.

“We need to do what we can to minimise the risk”

Dr Tildesley, an infectious diseases expert, told Times Radio:

I can understand the need for wanting to keep our borders open for as long as possible, but if we are, there’s a risk there.

We need to do what we can to minimise the risk, because what we don’t want is new variants coming in that undo all the good that our vaccination programme has done.

Test, trace, and support for self-isolation

He added:

If we are going to allow travel to continue we clearly need to do something about making sure that testing is much more efficient at airports and making sure that tracing works, and also that people are isolating for the full period, and we need to give people the support to do so.

Earlier this week, the prime minister referred to the “natural wanderlust” of Britons. The implication was that summer holidays could still be on the cards. Though he acknowledged things are “looking difficult” in Europe, where transmissions are rising.

Under the current ‘road map’ for easing restrictions, the earliest date people in England could go on holiday abroad would be 17 May. And Boris Johnson has said details of a review by the international travel taskforce will be revealed on 5 April.

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