Summer holidays at risk as minister warns they could spark third wave of Covid

Summer holidays abroad could spark third wave of Covid in the UK from a deadly new variant amid surging rates in Europe, a senior minister has warned.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace urged would-be jetsetters not to be "reckless" ahead of next month's official report on foreign travel.

He added breaks on the continent may not happen this year amid bungled vaccine roll-outs and renewed lockdowns in Europe.

On BBC's Andrew Marr, he said: "Even though the United Kingdom is almost leading the world on vaccination rates over half the adult population, it's really important that we don't import new variants to undermine all that hard work.

"We can't be deaf and blind to what's going on outside the UK.

"If we were to be reckless and import a new variant, what would people say about that?"

And he said plans for a break are "premature" and "potentially risky".

"This national effort to control this pandemic, all the indicators in the right direction at the moment and let's take it step by step."

Confirming he hadn't booked a holiday away, he told Sky's Sophy Ridge: "The Transport Secretary said recently it's highly unlikely there'll be foreign holidays, as such, this side of May.

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"But we're going to wait for task force to report in April."

Brits won't be able to travel abroad until May 17 at the earliest, the Sun reports.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has already warned “people shouldn’t be booking holidays”.

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The Government is set to confirm its plans for holidays after a task force report next month but government scientist Dr Mike Tildesley last week said holidays abroad are "highly unlikely" this year.

He said allowing holidaymakers to flock to foreign countries could "jeopardise" the UK's vaccination campaign and let new Covid variants in.

Many areas in Europe have been plunged back into lockdown as a deadly third wave fuelled by AstraZeneca vaccine sceptics sweeps across the continent.

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On Sunday, Dr Mary Ramsay of Public Health England said: "Numbers are going up at the moment in continental Europe and that's very concerning.

"Hopefully they will get their vaccine programmes up on track a bit more and that will bring those down.

"But obviously, you know, the safest thing is to stay where you are, and to avoid anything that increases your risk."

She also warned that having the vaccine didn't prevent all the spread of the virus, and people could still pass it on to others.

"We really don't want to jeopardise what has been an amazingly successful programme by allowing more circulation of unwelcome strains," she added.

It comes as Boris Johnson is expected to speak to his EU counterparts this week as a row over Covid vaccine supplies continues.

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