THE transport secretary has suggested the country will not return to local lockdowns following the easing of national restrictions introduced five months ago.

Speaking to The Northern Echo during the Downing Street press briefing, Grant Shapps said he did not envisage a return to the "bad old days" of high case rates, and subsequently a tiered-system.

Reporter Jim Scott had asked the transport secretary whether a spike in Covid infections in one region would prompt the Government to prevent residents from going abroad.

It came as the transport secretary revealed just minutes before that Brits would be able to travel to a limited number of countries without self-isolating from May 17.

He unveiled the green, amber and red traffic light system, which will see different requirements for Brits travelling to certain countries.

Mr Shapps suggested the return of local lockdowns were unlikely as case rates are now "so much lower," and because of the progress made with the vaccination programme.

He said: “As we come out of this lockdown, we’ve got this four-stage road map and, as you will have noted, we haven’t gone back into a tiered situation.

“That’s possible actually because, overall, our levels are so much lower and where they are low overall, where prevalence is low, you are able to take a much more national approach to all of this."

Before the national lockdown, the North-East was placed under Tier 4 restrictions which saw non-essential retail and hospitality forced to close.

At the time, and as much of the UK had been placed under tougher local rules, those under Tier 4 restrictions were banned from non-essential travel abroad.

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Mr Shapps said: “I very much hope that we are not going back to those bad old days of very high levels of enormous prevalence and the rest of it, because we’ve got the one thing we didn’t have when we got down to these very low levels last time around, and that is of course the vaccine.

“We are much better positioned this year with vaccines, with testing, with genomic sequencing, to not need to take that localised approach and so far, so good.”

Following the press conference with Mr Shapps, the editor of consumer champion Which? said booking travel plans for after May 17 still carries “some financial risk."

Rory Boland said: “Thousands of people will now be looking to arrange a long-awaited holiday or visit loved ones overseas.

“Travellers will have an expectation that these new Government rules should protect their health and their money, yet serious issues around lengthy airport queues and a broken testing system remain unresolved.

“Travellers should also be aware that there is still some financial risk involved in booking travel plans, depending on how you book and which company you choose.

“Several holiday companies and airlines remain under investigation for breaking the law last year and some have indicated they may do so again.

“In a summer when further disruption can be expected, travel companies must be honest about the risks holidaymakers may be taking on.

“Crucially, holidaymakers also need to do their research before booking, as choosing the right provider could be the difference between getting hundreds of pounds back or just getting the runaround.”