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With government messaging in a flux over whether or not Britons will be able to plan to go on summer holidays this year, here is a timeline of ministerial flip-flopping in recent weeks.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said people should not be booking summer holidays yet and the rules were “very clear” that people should not be travelling, domestically or internationally, without “very exceptional reasons”. He told LBC: “I think at the moment it’s too early, I think you have to follow the guidance that we’re putting out. I’m afraid until we’re in a position to give the reassurance, I think it’s very difficult to plan.”
Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, declared the opposite at a No 10 news briefing the next day when he revealed he had already booked his own holiday. “I’m going to Cornwall,” he said, though he cautioned against booking trips abroad. “And I have said before I think we’re going to have a great British summer.” His remarks saw travel companies urge people to start booking for the summer.
The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said Britons should “absolutely” not be booking travel just yet. He told Sky News that given the country had reached “base camp” with the vaccine rollout: “I think it is far too early to [book a holiday]. There are still 37,500 people in hospital with Covid at the moment. It is far too early to even speculate about the summer”.
Meanwhile, a buoyant Hancock told the BBC that Britons should be able to plan for a “happy and free Great British summer” once most adults have received the vaccine.
Later that day, the international trade secretary, Liz Truss, played down this optimism when she said travel restrictions would be in place for the “foreseeable future” and current rules which require quarantine and negative tests would likely be “quite permanent”.
She told LBC: “I think it would be very dangerous for a government minister to [make] promises about people’s summer holidays.”
The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he was optimistic about the prospect of the nation going on summer holidays, with the caveat that the vaccination programme had to continue to go well first.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, was firm that it was too soon for people to book holidays domestically or abroad. “People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now,” he told the BBC. “Please don’t go ahead and book holidays. I simply don’t know the answer to the question of where we’ll be up to this summer. It’s too early to give that information. The best advice to people is: do nothing at this stage.”
However, a few hours later, at the Downing Street lobby briefing, the prime minister’s official spokesman caused confusion when he said the decision on whether to book a holiday was “a choice for individuals”.
Later that evening, at the daily press conference, Johnson stressed it was illegal to go on holiday either at home or abroad and adopted a more cautious tone: “I am afraid it is just too early for people to be certain about what we’ll be able to do this summer.”
And while the prime minister was telling the nation it was too early to say whether people can get away for a break this summer, Hancock was telling a Zoom call with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that he had booked a break in Cornwall and shared jokes with Devon MPs who wanted him to holiday in their constituencies.
Hancock finally appeared to row back on some of his holiday optimism, saying it was too early for certainty but the government was doing everything it could.
He said: “I am saying exactly the same as every other minister is saying, which is there is uncertainty, and that means we cannot make categorical assurances but we are doing everything we can to get things back to normal.”
Source: The Guardian
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