Travel advice from the Government descended into farce last night as ministers bickered over whether it is safe to book a summer break in the UK this year.
As anger mounted,
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) has revealed to Tory MPs he has already booked a holiday in Cornwall this summer
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps sparked a furious backlash after declaring yesterday morning: ‘People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally’
Shapps says ‘vaccines passports’ likely to happen in the future
Grant Shapps today said he believes ‘vaccine passports’ will happen so holidays can resume when the pandemic eases.
The Transport Secretary confirmed the government is working on a system and was having talks with other countries.
However, he stressed it is not the same thing as documentation to allow people to access services in this country, which is not being considered.
Mr Shapps said in a round of interviews: ‘I imagine that in the future there will be an international system where countries will want to know that you have been potentially vaccinated or potentially had tests taken before flying.
‘I was speaking to my Singaporean counterpart, I was speaking to my US counterpart this week, and we’ll have discussions about those things to have an internationally recognised system.’
On a chaotic day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock then revealed to Tory MPs he has already booked a holiday in Cornwall this summer. Whitehall sources told the Mail that, despite the cautious message from the PM, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden are working on packages to promote holidays in the UK.
One insider said: ‘We are going to strain every sinew to let people have a holiday this summer.’
Another senior Tory said: ‘We are in danger of making “holiday” a dirty word when it should be exactly the sort of aspirational thing we are celebrating.’
Ministers have already put dreams of a summer break abroad in jeopardy, with the introduction of draconian border controls backed by the threat of ten-year prison sentences for those who try to cheat the system. Mr Shapps yesterday said opening up foreign travel would depend on ‘everybody having their vaccinations’ – a process not currently due to be completed until the autumn.
The PM later told MPs that people would have to ‘get used to the idea of re-vaccinating in the autumn’ to counter new variants of the disease. But suggestions that domestic holidays could also be disrupted sparked anger among Tory MPs and travel bosses.
Sir Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, said the suggestion that people should not book summer breaks in the UK was ‘extraordinary and unacceptable’. He insisted the goalposts for easing lockdown had ‘not so much been moved as ripped out and moved to another playing field’.
He said: ‘We had summer holidays last year when we didn’t have vaccines. Now we have vaccines coming out of our ears we are being told we can’t book a holiday. It is very strange and very frustrating.’
Ministers have already put dreams of a summer break abroad in jeopardy, with the introduction of draconian border controls backed by the threat of ten-year prison sentences for those who try to cheat the system. Mr Shapps yesterday said opening up foreign travel would depend on ‘everybody having their vaccinations’ – a process not currently due to be completed until the autumn (stock image)
Sir Charles, who called on the PM to ‘rein in’ Mr Shapps and Mr Hancock, warned that lockdown was becoming ‘an extended exercise in almost studied and deliberate cruelty for a nation now that is increasingly anxious and under pressure’.
In a further sign of Tory unease about the lockdown, 24 MPs yesterday staged a symbolic rebellion over Covid regulations relating to house parties.
Steve Double, Tory chairman of the all-party hospitality and tourism group, said it was ‘almost too late’ to book a holiday in many parts of the UK.
He stressed it was ‘essential’ that the PM set out a timetable for the reopening of the domestic tourism industry when he publishes his road map out of lockdown later this month.
Mr Double said: ‘I don’t know about telling people it’s too early to book a UK holiday this summer – in many places like Cornwall it’s too late.
‘People are listening to what is being said about foreign travel and booking in this country.’
The PM previously indicated that the road map, due in the week beginning February 22, would offer guidance on holidays. Asked directly whether it was safe to book for this summer, he replied yesterday: ‘I understand why people want to make plans now, but we’re just going to have to be a little bit more patient.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer last night urged ministers to ‘stop the mixed messages’ on holidays adding: ‘That really isn’t helping.’
Boris Johnson (pictured), who earlier this month said he was ‘optimistic’ about the prospect of summer holidays, appeared to change his mind yesterday. The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference it was ‘just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer’
Mr Johnson also warned that the reopening of the economy and society would be ‘cautious’.
He added: ‘What businesses up and down the country are going to want is a cautious and measured approach that is pragmatic and one we don’t have to retreat from or reverse.’
Microbiologist Professor Paul Hunter yesterday said the tough border restrictions should be lifted once the over-50s are vaccinated at the end of April.
He told the BBC’s World At One: ‘The things we are trying to keep out are probably already here. Border restrictions may have some value in terms of delaying things until we have got more vaccine. But in the longer term I cannot see them having any substantial ongoing benefit after April.’
Travel chiefs yesterday warned of a ‘second lost summer’ and stepped up urgent calls for a bailout and recovery package.
Tim Alderslade, of Airlines UK, wrote to Mr Johnson, saying in order to run a full flying programme in July, airlines need to begin planning by the end of the month. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary told Sky News: ‘If everybody over 50 is vaccinated by the end of May, frankly there’s going to be no justification for restricting people’s civil liberties or forcing them to sit at home when the risk of coronavirus has been hugely reduced.’
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