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UK reopening plans face critical test as summer starts in earnest

Panorama of a city business district with office buildings and skyscrapers and superimposed data, charts and diagrams related to stock market, currency exchange and global finance. Blue line graphs with numbers and exchange rates, candlestick charts and financial figures fill the image with a glowing light. Sunset light.

Boris Johnson’s reopening plans face several major tests this weekend as events reopen across the country for the first time since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced in March last year.

Festivals in particular are now able to go ahead with the Latitude event in Suffolk this weekend expected to attract 40,000 people.

Early arrivals yesterday had to show proof of two vaccinations or a negative Covid-19 test to get in but social distancing measures are not in place in the trial event and there is no requirement for facemasks, though marquees will be open-sided or equipped with air purifiers.

A huge weekend for travel is also expected with the start of the summer school holidays expected to spark a mass exodus to the sun.

The getaway comes as infections continue to rise across the country with almost 750,000 people testing positive over the past week.

Even so, an estimated 400,000 people are expected to travel over the weekend in what is expected to be the first mass holiday break since pandemic lockdown restrictions were introduced.

Airlines are putting on more flights

“With schools breaking up for summer this weekend sees the busiest weekend so far this year and we are looking forward to taking as many people as we can on that long-awaited and well-deserved trip,” said Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK manager, said in a statement.

The airline is preparing to carry over 135,000 passengers this weekend from the UK on over 80 routes to Green and Amber destinations across Europe.

Jet2 has 100 more flights taking off this weekend than last week with 40 destinations now on its schedule.

Airports, too, are braced for a surge of holidaymakers with Heathrow Airport expecting almost 130,000 passengers this weekend.

“We’re thrilled to see the terminals coming to life again, with most of the shops and restaurants now reopened. We have additional colleagues on hand to ensure our passengers have a smooth journey,” said John Holland-Kaye, chief executive.

Reports today that France might be downgraded again to no-quarantine status, having been moved up the amber-list plus category only last weekend also helped the mood.

Trade association ABTA said today it wants more countries to be added to the green list to boost travel abroad and also for testing requirements to be eased while adding that it was essential financial support for the travel industry continues.

Shares in airlines have had a tough week but were edging up again today with easyJet 1% better at 818p, Ryanair PLC (LON:RYA) 0.5% higher at EUR15.90 and JET2 PLC (LON:JET2) a couple of pence higher at 1,149p.

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