It is still “too soon” for UK residents to consider booking a holiday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned.
The Cabinet minister said today (10 Feb) that people should not be booking holidays at the current time, either domestically or internationally, as the UK continues its efforts to drive Covid-19 cases down.
When might travel restrictions be lifted?
The Government will outline its lockdown exit roadmap during the week commencing 22 February, with restrictions expected to be lifted in phases, rather than an immediate easing of all measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the Government will set out in as much detail as possible about possible dates, and the timetable, for lifting current rules.
While the lockdown exit strategy will be announced on 22 February, England’s national lockdown is expected to remain in place until at least 8 March, meaning any potential easing of rules on travel won’t occur until next month at the earliest.
However, Mr Shapps has said it is not yet clear if the lockdown exit strategy will include any changes on travel or holidays just yet, with any lifting of the rules being dependent on the success of the vaccine rollout.
The Cabinet minister indicated that travel restrictions may not be eased until everyone in the UK - and potentially overseas destinations - has had their Covid-19 vaccinations.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Shapps said: “The Prime Minister will say more about the route to unlocking this country, starting when he speaks about it on February 22.
“But we don’t know yet whether that will include information on things like holidays, simply because we don’t know where we’ll be up to in terms of the decline in cases, deaths, vaccination.
“And not just the vaccination programme here, but the vaccination programme internationally, because people will be going outside of our borders. So it’s too soon.”
What needs to change to allow travel?
Mr Shapps said that vaccinations will play a key part in allowing travel restrictions to be lifted, and warned that current rules will remain in place until the vaccine rollout reaches a level for travelling to be safe - both in the UK and internationally.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he explained: “It depends on the level of vaccination here and, critically, elsewhere.
“We’ve done 13 million-plus vaccinations, which is just more than the whole of the EU put together.
“So we’ll need to wait for other countries to catch up as well in order to be able to do that wider international block, because we can only control the situation here.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said it was “plausible” for other countries to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before they travel.
He told the BBC: “I can’t tell you how other countries are going to react to us, react to the idea of international travel in the post-Covid pandemic world, and whether in fact other countries will themselves insist that visitors are vaccinated, I don’t know the answer to that. And I don’t think other countries yet know the answer to that.”
He added that it was “certainly plausible that people will start to frame things that way” because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus variants.