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Boris Johnson has warned the public against pinning their hopes on a summer holiday, even in the UK, until the government announces its plans for lifting lockdown.
Ten days ago the health secretary, Matt Hancock, held out the hope of a “happy and free great British summer” and previously revealed that he has already booked his own family break in Cornwall.
But as ministers grapple with the implications of emerging new coronavirus variants in the UK and overseas, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Wednesday that “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally”, prompting an exasperated reaction from the travel industry.
Hours later, the prime minister also urged the public to wait before making definite plans. “I am afraid it is just too early for people to be certain about what we’ll be able to do this summer,” he said, adding that he hoped to say more in the week of 22 February when the government is due to publish its “roadmap” for emerging from England’s lockdown.
“I understand why people want to make plans now but we’re just going to have to be a little bit more patient,” he added.
Attempting to draw a line under the confusing messages from ministers, former Tory minister Simon Clarke later tweeted: “Bottom line on holiday gate: travel abroad this year is unlikely. Holidays within the UK *are* likely by the summer, but the government can’t make a hard and fast statement to this effect at this stage. If you book (as I have), you do so at your own risk.”
Johnson was speaking at a sombre Downing Street press conference, where he and Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK government’s chief scientific officer, repeatedly stressed the need to go slowly in emerging from the current lockdown, which has been in place since 5 January.
The latest official data on Wednesday showed that 1,001 more people were reported to have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, and there were 13,013 new cases.
Vallance said: “I think caution is important as we go into opening things up, and measuring’s important, and data is going to be important. The virus isn’t going to be particularly interested in dates.”
Johnson agreed, saying that he is aiming for “a cautious and measured approach that is pragmatic and that we don’t have to retreat from”. While more than 13m first vaccine doses have been administered, he said he had not yet been able to see the impact of the programme in infections data but hoped it would become clearer in the next couple of weeks.
Anything other than a decisive shift towards reopening is likely to be deeply unpopular with Johnson’s party, with the backbench Covid Recovery Group calling for all restrictions on daily life to be lifted by the end of May.
Shapps warned that the easing of restrictions on international holidays would be influenced by “not just the vaccination programme here but the vaccination programme internationally, because people will be going outside of our borders”. International holidaymakers face the added complication of quarantines on arrival from some countries amid concerns about the possibility of vaccine-resistant variants of Covid-19.
A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents insisted, however: “You can book a summer holiday now with confidence by booking a package holiday through an Abta member, and many travel companies are also offering additional flexibility to take into account the uncertainty created by the pandemic.”
Abta, which represents travel agents and tour operators, said the industry could not afford to lose another summer by waiting for the rollout of vaccinations. It instead called for the government to consider vaccine certificates, often labelled “vaccine passports”, as well as testing.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Too early’ to book summer holidays even in UK, says Johnson | World news