The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the clearest indication yet that international travel is unlikely to resume on May 17 – the earliest date outlined in the UK’s recovery roadmap. Addressing the Scottish parliament, Sturgeon said a restart “may well not be possible for a further period” due to the prevalence of Covid-19 in destinations.
In her comments, Sturgeon also said that it was likely that “pre-departure and post-arrival testing will be a feature of travel in and out of Scotland for “some time to come” and indicated that the Holyrood government would begin discussions with the aviation sector “later this week” as to when non-essential travel to international destinations may be possible again.
“Like the UK government we are certain this will not be achievable before May 17; however, our view is that it may well not be possible for a further period after that given the circumstances and the situation with the virus in many other parts of Europe and the world.”
Boris Johnson’s government has so far given no indication that international travel may be delayed beyond May 17, which has prompted many to assume that Britons will be able to travel after that date. Last week, MPs on the Commons transport committee urged the government to confirm May 17 as a restart date as it would provide certainty to consumers and businesses:“If the 17 May restart is delayed, airlines and airports will experience an extended period when people are not travelling, which will exacerbate the financial challenges that those businesses have faced over the past year, perhaps to critical levels,” the committee’s report said.
“The 17 May date for restarting international travel should be maintained provided that the four reopening tests that the government set out on 22 February are met.”
Downing Street remains noncommittal. Speaking to Times Radio, transport secretary Grant Shapps said there were no “cast-iron guarantees” of international travel resuming by a particular date, and added: “I would say that it makes sense to see how the course of the pandemic unlock proceeds. I am hopeful but, as with everything to do with this virus, you can’t say for certain.”
Nicola Sturgeon’s comments are the clearest indication by any of the UK government leaders not to pin too much hope on May 17, and her caution is very much in line with that of the Irish government, which has so far refused to commit to any opening up date for international travel to resume.