Ministers cast further doubts on summer holidays abroad and warn booking now is ‘risky’ as they ‘work on new “traffic light” scheme to resume non-essential travel’ amid fears over spiking Covid numbers in Europe
- Ben Wallace said it is ‘premature’ and ‘potentially risky’ to book holiday abroad
- Ministers said to be working on new ‘traffic light’ system to resume foreign trips
- But there is growing concern in Whitehall about Covid spikes in many countries
Britons hoping for a summer holiday abroad this year have been dealt a fresh blow after ministers said booking a break now would be ‘premature’ and ‘potentially risky’.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, further dampened hopes of a swift return to foreign trips as he stressed the Government ‘can’t be deaf and blind to what is going on outside the United Kingdom’.
Mr Wallace said ‘we can’t put at risk’ the progress made during lockdown by being ‘reckless’ and importing coronavirus variants from abroad.
Surging Covid-19 infection rates in some European countries have spooked officials in Whitehall who fear travel restrictions may have to be kept in place for longer than had been hoped.
It came as ministers are reportedly working on a new ‘traffic light’ scheme which could be rolled out in the coming months to allow the return of non-essential travel to some countries.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, further dampened hopes of a swift return to foreign trips as he stressed the Government ‘can’t be deaf and blind to what is going on outside the United Kingdom’
Ministers are reportedly working on a new ‘traffic light’ scheme which could be rolled out in the coming months to allow the return of non-essential travel to some countries. Heathrow Airport is pictured in August last year
The Financial Times said the initiative would see high risk countries put in the red category while nations with high vaccination rates would be in the green category.
However, it remains unclear whether travel to a green-designated country would require a period of self-isolation upon return.
One official told the FT: ‘Self-isolation can’t be ruled out. It is all part of the conversations taking place.’
Non-essential international travel remains banned during the current coronavirus lockdown.
Under the terms of Boris Johnson’s roadmap a taskforce will report on April 12 with recommendations aimed at securing a return to foreign travel ‘as soon as possible’.
The Government will then determine when international travel should resume but it will be ‘no earlier than 17 May’.
The success of the UK’s vaccination programme had sparked hopes of a return to summer breaks abroad.
But there are mounting concerns over the dangers of importing coronavirus variants.
Asked if it is likely that people will be able to go on holiday abroad this summer, Mr Wallace told Sky News: ‘My colleague the Transport Secretary said only recently that is is highly unlikely we will be able to go on foreign holidays as such this side of May or indeed or indeed in early May.
‘But we are going to wait for these task force to report to the Prime Minister in April, they are going to take a look at it.
‘We can’t be deaf and blind to what is going on outside the United Kingdom, if you look in Europe, increases of infections, and we can’t put at risk the huge amount of effort by the taxpayer, by the NHS by our scientists in developing this vaccine.
‘If we were to be reckless in anyway and import new variants that put that at risk then what would people say about that?
‘We have got a good direction of travel, we are getting there and I think we need to make sure we preserve that at all costs.’
He later told the BBC: ‘Well, I haven’t booked my holiday. I will wait to see what the response is from those task forces in April.
‘I think it would be premature to do that, it would be potentially risky. We’re seeing growing variants, and I think, you know, we have done a huge amount for the taxpayer, NHS staff, my constituents who’ve been in lockdown since September, and I don’t want us to throw that away.’