Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, whose modeling work is informing government scientists, said he had not yet booked a stay abroad but the risks were focused on countries with higher infection levels than the UK.
It comes after the European Commission said it would ease travel restrictions in the bloc amid Covid-19 vaccination drives and falling infection rates.
The EU proposes “to allow entry into the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all people coming from countries where the epidemiological situation is good, but also for all people who have received the last recommended dose. a vaccine authorized by the EU ”.
The UK government’s ‘green list’ of countries to which people can travel without having to self-isolate for 14 days upon return is also expected to be released shortly.
Professor Ferguson told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I think if, for example, by the summer the infection levels in France and Italy are at the same level as here, then there is no risk associated with traveling abroad.
“The risk comes from a place like the UK with very low infection levels and going to a place with much higher infection levels and therefore the risk of bringing the infection back.
“If the two places are at comparable levels, and that’s what the EU says, then there are no particular risks associated with travel. “
He said the risk of vaccines being less effective in dealing with variants was “the major concern” which could still lead to a “very significant third wave in the fall” in the UK.
It was therefore “essential to deploy booster doses, which can protect against this, as soon as we have practically finished vaccinating the adult population, which should be completed by the summer,” he said.
Professor Ferguson said he “felt quite optimistic that we won’t be completely back to normal, but something that looks a lot more normal by the summer”.
Agreeing that “everyone would like to safely reopen international travel”, he added: “The EU has made a very strong warning in its statement that it reserves the right to crack down again if there is had some worrying variations, and I think that’s everyone’s business. at the moment across the European continent we don’t want to see vaccination undermined by things like the South African variant spreading out of control, but with this caveat if we can find ways to reopen travel internationals that mitigate that risk, so I think everyone would like the opportunity to go overseas. “
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s opinion that the more than one meter rule on social distancing could be repealed in June, Professor Ferguson said it was a political judgment on the acceptable level of infection , since deaths had been reduced.
He said that “we expect transmission, and to some extent hospitalizations and deaths, to increase by the end of the summer if we get back to normal completely, but to a much lower level than what we saw, for example, in December and January ”.
“So this is obviously a political judgment on what is acceptable in terms of the number of infections, but we see no prospect of, say, the NHS being overwhelmed – with the only caveat of the variants. that I’ve mentioned before – so it’s always a matter of judgment. ”
He said it would take ‘much higher infection levels in society in order to risk overwhelming the NHS and we believe that in fact will not happen unless a variant occurs that resets this again. relationship “.
Professor Ferguson stressed his team still had concerns about late summer and early fall, but ‘they are diminishing’, especially in light of new data showing the effect of vaccines on transmission. virus.
“And that has lowered our estimates of the magnitude of any potential fall wave,” he said.
At the same time, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Rita Marques, said the country was “taking the lead” in the European Council in negotiations to open the European Union to British holidaymakers.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We are really trying to open up to third countries like the UK. “
But International Trade Secretary Liz Truss urged people to wait for an announcement from the UK Travel Task Force, telling Sky News: “I would encourage people to wait until we make this announcement so that we can see exactly what the details are, based on the data. , because what we don’t want to do is re-import this virus after doing a great job of bringing the levels down in UK … we have to be careful and we have to make sure that we are not just importing the virus after we have dealt with it successfully in Britain. ”