How likely IS a holiday to Europe this summer? Spain gets set to lift restrictions for UK travellers on March 30 (even though you can’t go until at least May 17) – while data suggests Malta could be on the cards…
- Government scientists have warned Britons not to get their hopes up about holidaying to Europe this summer
- Fears high infections and low vaccine rates in EU could risk importing dangerous variants back to the UK
- Analysis shows 70% of EU saw cases rise in week and just three countries have jabbed 20% of population
Scientists have urged Britons not to get their hopes up about holidaying on the continent this summer, amid warnings of a third wave of Covid picking up pace across Europe.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson today called for borders to stay shut over summer until every adult has had a vaccine and told Brits to prepare for a summer of staycations.
Another Government expert, Professor Kamlesh Khunti, warned allowing people to travel abroad could lead to huge dump of cases being imported into the UK, which could plunge the country into another national lockdown.
Matt Hancock has warned it is too early to give summer holidays the green light but has not ruled them out completely. The Health Secretary this morning scolded junior health minister Lord Bethell for suggesting the entire continent could be put on the travel ‘red list’.
Speaking at tonight’s Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson said on summer holidays: ‘It’s just too early to stay, my advice for everyone is to wait.’
Amid the uncertainty around foreign travel, British Airways and easyJet today scrapped scores more flights, including trips booked for after May 17, when international breaks were scheduled to resume.
But with the picture on the continent constantly changing and the end of the pandemic in sight with vaccines now being rolled out en masse, experts say travel could be allowed this summer — if only at the very end of the season.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor at the University of Reading told MailOnline: ‘I certainly don’t think there will be anything in the early summer.
‘I think realistically Brits won’t be able to go on holiday until the second half of August at the very earliest. People don’t want to hear that because it only leaves two weeks for the [school holidays] but I think that’s what’s going to happen.
‘Most countries people will want to visit while either be in some form of lockdown, won’t have the vaccine rolled out as widely [or] they [will] have variants doing the rounds that may possibly escape vaccines.’
Spain has already announced it will lift entry restrictions for UK travellers from March 30, with government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero today confirming the country would not have its travel ban extended because of the success of the British vaccine rollout.
However, experts say high infections rates combined with woefully slow vaccine rollouts create the perfect environment for new Covid variants — casting more doubt on holidays.
Here, MailOnline analyses all the important coronavirus data in popular European holiday hotspots, which No10 will use to determine whether or not Britons can go abroad over the summer.
The figures, compiled by the Oxford University-based research platform Our World in Data, show 70 per cent of EU saw infections rise in the past week. Just three of the 44 countries analysed have vaccinated more than a fifth of their populations, with Malta (32 per cent) leading the way.
Coronavirus cases are rising more than 30 per cent per week in parts of Europe, data analysed by MailOnline has shown, throwing fresh doubt over whether Brits will be able to go on holiday this summer
European leaders are being forced to impose tough new lockdown measures to curb a rise in Covid infections driven by new and more-infectious variants of the virus, with Germany the latest to slam on the brakes
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 4,197 (362)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +41%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 36 (3)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 965,000 (12%)
Belgium is teetering on the brink of another full lockdown again after a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections in the past week.
Current restrictions mean bars, restaurants and cafes can only offer takeaway services, and people can only meet one person out with their household outdoors and employees who can must work from home. However, hairdressers, beauty salons and nonessential shops are still open.
Frank Vandenbroucke, the Belgian health minister, said yesterday he is ‘very worried’ about the current situation and warned that plans to ease social contact curbs after Easter as hoped are now in doubt. He also did not rule out shutting more parts of the country to get on top of rising case.
A face-to-face summit of EU heads of state and government that was due to take place in Brussels this Thursday has been cancelled due to the spike in infections. A spokesman said the decision had been taken ‘following the surge of Covid cases in member states’.
The third wave gaining steam in Belgium, combined with the fact the country has vaccinated four times fewer people than the UK, may dash the hopes of Brits looking to taste the nation’s famous chocolate, beer and waffles this summer.
About 2.1million people from the UK visit Belgium every year. Belgium ministers have not yet indicated whether the country’s borders will be reopened for vaccinated British tourists this summer.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 945 (23)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: 45%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 14 (4)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 365,000 (9%)
Croatia has enjoyed some of the lowest infection rates in the bloc this year but a 45 per cent spike in cases in the past week show the country is being hit by the third wave rolling across the continent.
The country, famed for its white pebble beaches, has become one of the holiday destinations growing fastest in popularity among British holidaymakers in recent years, with more than a million now making the trip every year compared to just tens of thousands in the mid-1990s.
UK ministers will be particularly cautious about foreign travel to Croatia after a Public Health England report published last week found it may have accounted for one in eight of all imported infections from Europe last summer.
Just a fraction of Croats have been vaccinated — 365,000 out of 4.2million — and the country has high levels of vaccine hesitancy.
A national survey in mid-December suggested 44 per cent of residents did not plan on getting vaccinated.
The Mayor of Dubrovnik earlier this month suggested British travellers who have been vaccinated, have proof of recovery from prior infection or test negative negative for a PCR test should be allowed to travel to the country without needing to quarantine on arrival.
Mato Franković said: ‘The UK market is the most important tourist market in the city of Dubrovnik, and since the UK left the European Union, its guests are considered guests from third countries, and the quarantine obligation is in force upon arrival at the destination.
‘Given that such a measure could seriously jeopardise the season, this proposal was made, following the examples of Cyprus and Portugal that have concluded such agreements.’
Ministers have not yet agreed on the proposal to open up the country’s borders.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 394 (450)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: 4.5%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 1 (1)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 94,000 (15%)
Cyprus has said it hopes to welcome vaccinated British tourists from May, when foreign travel could be back on the cards under Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The Government said it will accept people who have had both of their Covid jabs, which will only realistically be very elderly Brits, NHS workers or severely ill people.
It’s unclear if controversial vaccine passports will be required for people to prove they have been inoculated.
Even though Cyprus’ vaccine rollout is lagging, the country has managed to keep its cases and deaths lower than the rest of Europe.
It is recording on average one death per day and fewer than 400 infections. Cases have risen only marginally in the past week.
If the UK was to go with a ‘traffic light’ system for foreign travel this summer, which ministers and Government scientists have proposed, Cyprus could be treated as a ‘green’ country, if it continues to keep its case and death rates low.
The island, situated off the south coast of Turkey, is hugely dependent on British tourists seeking sun.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 9,273 (866)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: -16%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 204 (19)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 975,000 (12%)
The Czech Republic is one of only 14 European nations to see infections fall in the past week, which has raised the prospect of summer holidays to the country if foreign travel goes ahead as planned in May.
But the 16 per cent fall in cases week-on-week does not paint the full picture.
With a population of 10.7million and, on average, more than 9,000 new cases every day, the country has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the world.
It also has the second highest death toll per capita globally, suffering more than 25,000 deaths since the Covid pandemic began.
Meanwhile, a sluggish vaccine rollout that has seen only 12 per cent of the country have their first jab, means there is a constant threat of the outbreak escalating at any moment.
About 800,000 Brits travel to the Czech Republic every year, with almost half visiting the country’s capital, Prague.
The country remains on the UK’s travel red list, with a period of self-isolation required when Brits return home from travelling there and non-essential travel discouraged.
Czech ministers have not suggested the country’s borders will be reopened for British tourists at any point soon.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 31,509 (462)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +31%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 265 (4)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 6.1million (13%)
Emmanuel Macron has put a third of the population in France, mostly in densely population urban areas where the virus finds it easy to spread, in a full lockdown, throwing millions of Brits’ summer holiday plans into disarray.
A total of 21million people in 16 areas, including the capital Paris, are under stay at home orders for at least four weeks after the country started to record the highest number of cases on the continent.
Some 31,000 people are getting infected every day on average and as much as 10 per cent of new cases are being caused by the troublesome South African variant, which makes vaccines slightly less effective.
France’s situation is being made worse by widespread vaccine hesitancy which was sparked after the country banned the use of AstraZeneca’s jab following reports of blood clots in a handful of patients – despite the EU regulator saying the jab was completely safe.
President Macron was also critical of the British-made vaccine when it was first approved in January, saying there was not enough data to prove it worked on old people, comments he has since retracted. Polls suggest 61 per cent of people in France now see the AZ jab as unsafe.
Experts say countries like France where the vaccine rollout is sluggish and infection rates are high are perfect breeding grounds for new Covid variants, which will make UK ministers hesitant to green-light travel across the Channel this year. France normally welcomes more than 10million Brits annually.
France has already reopened its borders to the UK, with the country named as one of seven where travellers coming from will not have to justify their journey.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 13268 (158)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +30%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 187 (2)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 6.7m (8%)
City breaks to Germany look to be off the cards, after Angela Merkel announced the country is going back into lockdown over Easter.
More than 3.5million Brits normally holiday in the country every year but outbreaks of mutant Covid strains and a woefully slow vaccine scheme will put travel plans to Germany in doubt.
Mrs Merkel announced on Sunday that all non-essential shops in Germany will be closed over the Easter period with church services moved online and public gatherings banned as infections rise ‘exponentially’.
She added that Germany’s current lockdown measures — including closures of restaurants, bars, cultural venues and leisure facilities — will be extended until at least April 18, having been due to expire on March 28.
Mrs Merkel pointed to an ‘exponential’ rise in Covid cases in Germany as the reason for the decision, and said it was caused by the more-infectious Kent strain of coronavirus which is now dominant in the country.
The country — whose capital is the historic city of Germany — has yet to indicate whether it would accept tourists in summer or if vaccine passports will be required for entry
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 2364 (227)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +3%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 56 (5)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 980,000 (14%)
UK ministers are expected to clamp down on travel to Greece this summer after it emerged that a significant number of imported cases last year came from the country.
Public Health England’s analysis of 4,000 positive tests in patients with recent travel links last summer found Greece was the largest source of imported cases, making up 21 per cent of new infections.
The report warned that the Government’s decision to leave the travel corridor with Greece open for the entirety of the scheme led to the large influx of infections.
While countries including Croatia and Spain were put on the quarantine list when their case rates went up, the travel corridor to Greece was left open from July until November.
But latest data shows Greece is faring well amid the third wave in relation to its European neighbours. Cases have only risen 3 per cent in the last week and the vaccine rollout is marginally ahead of other major EU states.
At least 3.5million Brits travel to Greece on holiday every year.
The country will allow tourists who have already had Covid, have been vaccinated or have tested negative on arrival to visit the country from mid-May.
Greek tourism minister Harry Theocharis said: ‘Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021.
‘Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing.’
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 21,684 (359)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: -3%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 404 (7)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 5.2million (13%)
Italy is seeing its Covid cases fall by three per cent a week after briefly rising in February and at the start of March, giving hope to Brits who want to visit the country over the summer.
More than 5million Britons visited the country in 2019, making it the third most popular nation in Europe for holidaymakers from the UK.
But deaths are still rising in the Mediterranean country, with the number of fatalities rising 18 per cent in the last week — a knock-on-effect of the rise in cases seen through February and March.
It is currently difficult to tell whether the last week’s fall in cases indicates a third wave has peaked in the country or if it is a mere blip before cases continue to rise in line with the rest of Europe.
The nation is still lagging behind the UK in terms of vaccinations, with just 13 per cent of the population receiving a jab, so there is little protection in the population that could prevent a continuation of the third wave.
The regional mayor of Italy’s wealthiest and most populous area yesterday dismissed the board of a company in charge of coronavirus vaccination bookings, after a series of rollout delays and IT failures in the Italian region worst-hit by the pandemic.
Lombardy, which includes the financial capital Milan, has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of the Covid emergency and was at the epicentre of the first European outbreak in February 2020.
Italian ministers have given no indication of plans to reopen the borders to vaccinated tourists.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 224 (508)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: -27%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 3 (6)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 100,000 (32%)
Malta has seen the third biggest drop in infections in Europe over the last week, suggesting the sun-soaked island could be a rare haven for would-be beach-goers from Britain this summer.
The island between Sicily and the North African coast has increased in popularity in recent years, with 800,000 Brits heading there in 2019.
Its infection rate has fallen from 695 per million people to 508 since last Monday, helped in no small part by the country’s high vaccination rate of 32 per cent.
At the current speed of the country’s rollout, the majority of its population are likely to be vaccinated by summer, meaning it will be safer for tourists.
The country has not yet indicated whether it will open for British tourists — amid current concerns around the Kent Covid variant — but the country relies on UK travellers for a seventh of its tourism industry in non-pandemic times, so is likely to open up if cases remain low.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 6,635 (387)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +18%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 30 (2)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 2.1million (12%)
The Netherlands, Britain’s sixth favourite European holiday destination in 2019, is seeing a rise in coronavirus infections.
The northern European country has recorded a week-on-week rise in infections of 18 per cent, with cases jumping to 387 per million people.
But deaths have fallen over the last seven days, dropping nine per cent from 33 to 30 since last Monday, indicating the country may only be at the start of a rise in cases.
It remains slightly behind the other nations in the EU bloc in terms of the vaccine roll-out, with just 12 per cent of the country’s population vaccinated.
But AstraZeneca expects the EU drug regulator to give approval for its factory in Leiden, the Netherlands, later this month or in early April, which would help boost the country’s vaccination rate by summer, along with the rest of Europe’s.
The country — whose capital is the bustling city of Amsterdam — has yet to indicate whether it would accept tourists in summer or if vaccine passports will be required for entry.
But the country did announced plan to lift its ban on passenger flights and ferries from the UK earlier this month.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 22,229 (587)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +34%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 308 (8)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 3.2million (13%)
Poland has seen the fifth highest rise in Covid cases in Europe over the last week, with infections rising 33.6 per cent in the last week.
The country is usually Britain’s tenth most popular tourism destination on the continent.
But the worrying trend may put off holidaymakers when it comes to booking their summer holiday this year.
Deaths have also begun creeping up again — rising 14.3 per cent in the last week from 270 to 308, Europe’s third largest death toll — indicating the country is in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic.
It has matched most of Europe’s vaccination rate, with more than 3million doses dished out, amounting to 13 per cent of the population having at least one jab.
Non-essential travel to Poland is still advised against in the UK, with a isolation for at least ten days required on return to the country.
Polish ministers have given no indication of plans to reopen the borders to vaccinated tourists.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 466 (46)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: -20%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 13 (1)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 900,000 (13%)
Portugal appears to be avoiding the third wave of the pandemic in Europe after its suffered one of the largest second waves of infections on the continent.
The country, visited by 3.31million Brits in 2019, has seen cases fall dramatically in the last few months, with cases dropping 20 per cent in the last week.
Its death statistics are similarly promising, with the death rate falling from 18 to 13 since last Monday — a fall of just over 30 per cent.
Like most EU countries, Portugal has rolled out the vaccine to around 13 per cent of its population, with the country lagging significantly behind the UK in terms of the number of jabs dished out.
Portugal’s tourism minister last week announced the country will allow UK tourists from May. Rita Marques said British visitors who can prove they have been vaccinated or show a negative Covid test result will be welcome from May 17.
The country was removed from the UK’s travel ‘red list’ last week, meaning arrivals no longer have to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel. But they still have to self-isolate at home for at least 10 days.
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 4,820 (359)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: -1%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 160 (3)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 6million (13%)
Britain’s most popular European destination by some margin, Spain, has seen a small fall in infections over the last week, giving some hope to Brits longing for a sunny holiday in Costa del Sol this summer.
Cases fell one per cent from 104 per million to 103 last Monday, continuing the trend of south European countries seemingly avoiding the so-called third wave in Europe.
But deaths did increase in the country — from 141 to 160 (13 per cent) — indicating the country is not out of the woods yet.
Nearly 6million people have now been vaccinated in the country, with the roll-out reaching just 13 per cent of the population so far.
Spanish ministers have previously suggested the country would open up to British tourism from May but only with the use of vaccine passports.
Spain’s tourism minister Reyes Maroto told a Spanish radio station at the start of the month: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport (when the tourism fair FITUR starts on May 19).’
Rolling seven-day average number of cases (per million people): 4,535 (449)
Percentage change in infections compared to last week: +15%
Rolling seven-day average number of deaths (per million people): 17 (2)
Vaccines administered (proportion of population): 1.3million (13%)
Sweden is unlikely to be welcoming tourists into the country any time soon, with cases rising 15 per cent over the last week.
The country which controversially avoided a full-scale coronavirus lockdown throughout 2020 and has only recently introduced more stringent measures has currently banned travel from all non-EU countries, including the UK and Norway.
It has one of the higher Covid case rates per million in Europe (449) with infections beginning to creep up again since the start of February, indicating it is suffering from a third wave of the pandemic.
But deaths are falling in the country, with the the rolling seven-day average of deaths dropping from 20 to 17 over the last week — a fall of 19 per cent.
The country has given out 1,293,923 jabs as of the most recent data — 13 per cent of its population — in line with most EU countries.
Non-essential travel to Sweden is still advised against in the UK, with a isolation for at least ten days required on return to the country.
Polish ministers have given no indication of plans to reopen the borders to vaccinated tourists.
‘You either want passengers back or you don’t!’ Despairing Britons blast BA and easyJet as airlines axe flights this summer after government made holidays illegal with £5,000 fines from Monday
Hopes for summer foreign holidays have been dealt a fresh blow after British Airways and easyJet scrapped more flights.
Would-be passengers were left dismayed by the latest round of cancellations – that included trips booked for after May 17, when breaks abroad were scheduled to resume. Some have even had flights for September axed.
Bradley Crouch, 33, bought flights to Mykonos on May 23 for a post-pandemic getaway with his extended family, confident it would go ahead after of Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to exit lockdown.
‘It’s that needed trip we’ve all been waiting for for so long,’ the gutted business owner from Kent told MailOnline after easyJet cancelled his flights last week.
Europe is grappling with a surge in Covid cases and yesterday health minister Lord Bethell warned the entire Continent could be put on the travel ‘red list’ of countries requiring arrivals to undergo hotel quarantine.
Matt Hancock this morning slapped down his junior minister, insisting the Government has ‘no plans’ for such drastic action at this stage.
But to better insulate Britain from the European third wave, ministers announced that from Monday rule-breakers in England travelling overseas illegally will face a £5,000 fine.
Critics railed against the ‘draconian measure’ and argued it would inflict further pain on the hard-hit travel sector.
The Health Secretary suggested the tough rules could be eased on May 17 – but cautioned it was still too early to give summer holidays the green light.
Bradley Crouch on a family holiday to Tenerife in 2018 with his wife Katerina and daughter Iliana. His trip to Mykonos in May has been cancelled
Would-be passengers were left dismayed by the latest round of cancellations – that included trips booked for after May 17, when breaks abroad were scheduled to resume. Some have even had flights for September axed
British Airways insists its cancellations were not due to the evolving situation on the Continent but a routine review of flights to reflect the view of IATA, the airline trade body, that foreign travel will not resume to pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
The pared-back routes include fewer flights to Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, and extend as far into the future as August.
So what IS a reasonable excuse to leave the UK?
The £5,000 fine, set out in legislation laid in the Commons yesterday, is on top of the previously announced £200 fine for not filling out a travel declaration form on reasons for leaving the country.
Exemptions also apply including:
- Those needing to travel for work, study, for legal obligations or to vote.
- People can go abroad for some childcare reasons or to be present at a birth, to visit a dying relative or close friend.
- They are also allowed to leave the UK to attend a funeral, to get married or to attend the wedding of a close relative, for medical appointments or to escape a risk of harm.
- They can also go abroad to view houses to buy or rent, to visit an estate agent or a show home, or to move house.
Sources played down the flight cuts as ‘business as usual’ – and suggested more could be added in the future if there is scope.
Yet would-be holidaymakers were exasperated that flights they had booked for after lockdown were being axed.
One said: ‘I’m getting welcome back emails so booked flights in good faith having had my first vaccine dose.
‘Yesterday two were cancelled for mid July. Today, another cancelled for mid August. This is absolutely ridiculous, you either want passengers back or you don’t!’
Nick Murrell tweeted: ‘Book with confidence you tell us British Airways. Budapest and Milan flights in September cancelled in 24 hours. What’s the point in booking with you?’
British Airways said: ‘We are sorry that, like other airlines, due to the current coronavirus pandemic and global travel restrictions we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.’
EasyJet also stressed they have not cancelled flights for fear of a European third wave but that the flight schedule is reviewed ‘on an ongoing basis to align our flying programme with customer demand and government travel restrictions’.
Under Mr Johnson’s roadmap to exit lockdown, foreign holidays were pencilled to return for May 17, but this now looks to be in doubt because of the spiralling outbreak on the Continent.
Multiple European countries are tightening restrictions, and Germany has announced an ’emergency brake’ lockdown to tackle the rise in cases.
Just over 10 per cent of adults have received their first vaccine dose across the EU, compared to the UK’s figure exceeding 53 per cent.
Foreign holidays have been dealt a fresh blow after British Airways scrapped yet more summer flights
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the £5,000 fine will be reviewed on May 17
Chris Whitty warns UK will ‘definitely’ be hit by a third wave and ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson wants foreign holidays banned until ALL adults are vaccinated – but Boris insists UK’s roadmap back to normal life is still ‘on course’
The UK’s roadmap out of lockdown is still ‘on course’ despite warnings that there will ‘definitely’ be a third wave of Covid later this year, No10 says.
Professor Chris Whitty said at a conference today that there will ‘definitely be another surge at some point’ and SAGE experts warn a third wave is inevitable.
Infections are surging in Europe now, which Boris Johnson warns has always led to an increase in Britain, too, and vaccine shortages will hit the UK in April.
But despite this, no changes have been made to the lockdown-easing plans that could see social distancing laws lifted once and for all on June 21.
Mr Johnson has said Britain will have to accept the risk of a huge spike in infections, and likely hospital admissions and deaths, whenever the lockdown is lifted – but the only other option was to live with lockdown rules indefinitely.
Vaccines should soften the blow of the next major outbreak but other countries haven’t made as much progress so could be harder hit.
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson has urged Brits to stick to staycations and not go abroad until everyone has had a jab, saying borders should stay shut over summer.
One of Professor Ferguson’s SAGE colleagues, Professor Kamlesh Khunti, gave the same warning earlier in the day and said allowing people to travel abroad could lead to yet another total lockdown in the UK if the virus spread out of control again.
Summer holiday hopes have taken a battering today as British Airways and easyJet cancelled more flights planned as far ahead as August and Downing Street announced it will fine people £5,000 for going on holiday when it isn’t allowed.
To strengthen control at the borders, ministers will introduce a £5,000 fine for anyone who travels abroad without a reasonable excuse, such as essential work.
Mr Hancock said this will be reviewed on May 17, but European holidays were plunged into doubt yesterday when his junior minister, Lord Bethell, suggested the entire Continent could be placed on the red list.
Lord Bethell told peers: ‘The possibility is that we will have to red-list all of our European neighbours. But that would be done with huge regret because we are a trading nation.’
Thirty-five countries are on the red list, including the whole of South America, southern Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Portugal was on the list but was removed last week.
Mr Hancock today said ‘we don’t have any plans to do that’ but said it’s too early to tell if summer holidays will get the green light.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I entirely understand people’s yearning to get away and have a summer holiday, and we’re looking at that question right now as part of the global travel taskforce, which will report in the middle of next month.
‘The earliest that will take any steps will be May 17 but, obviously, we’re taking a cautious approach because we want any openings that we make to be irreversible.’
He said a traffic light system for travel with red and amber lights is in place at the moment but more details on the way forward would be published around April 12.
‘Until then, I’m afraid, as people have got used to over the last year, frankly it is wait and see.
‘Because we’ll only make steps that we think are safe but, on the other hand, we do understand, of course I understand, how people want to be able to get away in the summer, especially after the last year that we’ve all had.’
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling promoted the first national lockdown a year ago today, urged Britons to book holidays in the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘I certainly am in favour of relaxing border measures at a slower rate than we relax controls within the country and doing all we can to reduce the risk of importation of variants, which might undermine our vaccination programme.
‘I think we should be planning on summer holidays in the UK, not overseas.’
The £5,000 fine sent travel stocks – including easyJet , British Airway-owner IAG, Jet2 and TUI – down 2-4 per cent in early trade on Tuesday.
Britain’s travel sector has lost more than 45,000 jobs and passenger numbers at the biggest airport, Heathrow, have fallen to their lowest since 1966 during the crisis.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said extending travel restrictions will be ‘devastating’ for millions of people working in tourism.
Paul Charles, boss of the PC travel agency, said: ‘It’s a draconian measure that tightens the problems in the travel sector and actually puts of people from even making inquiries, let alone booking.
‘I think it’s a smokescreen for the lack of inbound testing policy in this country. Here we are a year after lockdown began and there is still no major testing system in place.’
The fine will be introduced when MPs vote to renew the emergency coronavirus legislation that expires this month.
Despite hawkish Tory MPs threatening to rebel, the vote is widely expected to pass with the backing of Labour.
The Government’s gradual easing of lockdown will be done in four stages – March 29, April 12, May 17 and June 21, if the data allows.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said that Britain will inevitably feel the bleak situation on the Continent, saying their Covid woes will ‘wash up on our shores’.
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