We had a lot of good news on the COVID front yesterday. Studies from Scotland showed that vaccines are having a significant impact on hospitalisations, and the PM set out the roadmap out of lockdown for England (with the devolved Governments likely to follow along broadly similar lines). Newspaper headlines are trumpeting the end of restrictions by 21 June, overlooking that the dates set out in the roadmap are dependent on 4 key tests and could move further to the right.
So should you be booking your next business trip abroad and planning for a return to normality?
Not yet - there are some other key issues that I think remain significant challenges in 2021:
The roadmap mostly concerns the return to normality in the UK. The considerations for international travel are limited, and existing measures will remain in place until at least 17 May. With concerns about new strains coming into the UK being one of the Government's 4 key tests, border restrictions, a need for testing and self-isolation or quarantine will continue to be required.
The UK's "Red List" is still in place, and is subject to change. I would be surprised if more countries are not added to it in time as new strains of concern take hold. Travellers still run the risk of being caught out while overseas if the list changes, finding themselves needing to quarantine in a hotel on return.
While the UK has a roadmap, mostly thanks to our excellent vaccination programme, other countries do not, and many will not get sufficient vaccines this year. Restrictions will therefore continue in other countries, creating a confusing map of regulations for travellers, with routes remaining prone to disruption (often at short notice). While "vaccination passports" may help, they won't be universally recognised for some time - with some countries wary of how much vaccination cuts down transmissibility.
New waves of COVID-19 will hit around the World, particularly in countries with lower vaccination rates. This will result in local restrictions and travel bans which will further disrupt international travel.
Where those new waves are significant there is also the risk that local healthcare systems becoming overloaded. This may result in a lower standard of care for all patients, not just those infected with COVID-19, impacting travellers whether they are vaccinated or not.
So yes, it's a time for celebration, we can all look forward to a better future. But let's keep in mind that challenges remain in the medium term.
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