Covid-19: Too early to decide on summer holidays, says Hancock

Covid-19: Too early to decide on summer holidays, says Hancock

It is “too early” to know whether summer holidays can go ahead, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said there was still “a lot of uncertainty” but they were doing everything possible to make sure people could have a holiday this year.

He told the BBC he had booked his own summer break in Cornwall “months ago”.

Labour and some Tory MPs have called for clarity after ministers urged the public not to book holidays at home and abroad.

Businesses have also criticised the comments as fuelling uncertainty for companies already struggling in the pandemic.

Mr Hancock said it was too early to know which coronavirus restrictions may still be in place over the summer, but that he understood people wanted to make plans.

He told BBC Breakfast “people are yearning for certainty over whether they can have a summer holiday” but said “pandemics are difficult times and there is a lot of uncertainty”.

“We are doing everything that we possibly can to make sure that people can have a holiday this summer but the vaccine rollout is absolutely essential to that,” he continued.

The health secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that, before summer holidays, the priority would be making sure people can see loved ones. Again he said it was too early to say when but the prime minister would set out more details in the week beginning 22 February.

Mr Hancock said 90% of people had accepted an offer of a jab – much higher than predictions about 75% would get the vaccine.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged two million people who have yet to accept their offer of a jab to “come forward” this week.

His comments came after both Mr Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pleaded with people not to “go ahead and book holidays”.

Mr Shapps said on Wednesday it was “too soon” to book a domestic holiday and that foreign breaks may only be possible once many more people have been vaccinated and to “do nothing at this stage”.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street briefing that people would have to be a “little bit more patient.”

But shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth criticised ministers for not being clearer about what the public could plan for.

He said he had yet to book a holiday because he was “in the same boat as everyone else”.

“I just want to know what’s happening, so ministers need to tell us,” he said.

The remarks from Mr Shapps yesterday prompted anger from senior Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker, who accused ministers of “ripping out” the goalposts on the timetable for lifting Covid restrictions.

People “need to have something to look forward to”, he said.

One travel industry leader criticised Mr Shapps’s plea for people to stop making summer plans as “puerile and nonsensical”.

While Heathrow Airport’s chief executive said getting back to normality was not just about people’s holidays but also to “protect people’s businesses and livelihood”.

John Holland-Kaye said aviation businesses have gone for almost a full year with virtually no revenue and warned they may not be able to continue without slashing jobs.

Under the current national restrictions, holidays are not permitted anywhere in the UK. International travel is restricted to essential purposes, such as for work, medical appointments, or education.

A new online portal allowing UK and Irish nationals and residents travelling from certain “red list” countries to book a place in hotel quarantine opens later on Thursday.

From Monday, arrivals from 33 nations deemed high-risk due to new virus variants must isolate for 10 days in managed facilities at a cost of at least £1,750.

All other arrivals must see out a 10-day quarantine at home, but will be required to book and pay for two additional private virus tests.

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