No holidays until ‘everybody’ gets Covid jab – Transport Secretary

Foreign holidays will remain banned until “everybody” has had a coronavirus vaccine, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.
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The Cabinet minister also warned it is “too soon” to book a trip.

Leisure travel is prohibited under the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, but the travel industry is desperate for rules to be relaxed in time for the vital summer season.

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Asked on BBC Breakfast what needs to change for restrictions on overseas travel to be lifted, Mr Shapps replied: “First of all, everybody having their vaccinations.”

Visitors and holidaymakers enjoy the fine weather as they gather on the beaches and the harbour on August 4, 2014 in St Ives, CornwallVisitors and holidaymakers enjoy the fine weather as they gather on the beaches and the harbour on August 4, 2014 in St Ives, Cornwall
Visitors and holidaymakers enjoy the fine weather as they gather on the beaches and the harbour on August 4, 2014 in St Ives, Cornwall

Pressed on whether the rules will remain in place until that happens, he said “yes”, before explaining that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out a “road map” for relaxing lockdown measures on February 22.

He added: “It depends on both 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.

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“So we’ll need to wait for other countries to catch up as well in order to be able to do that wider international unlock, because we can only control the situation here.”

Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later said booking a summer holiday is “a choice for individuals”.

He added that the February 22 announcement will “allow people to have a greater knowledge and understanding of the path going forward”.

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A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said waiting until the UK’s vaccination programme is completed before allowing people to travel abroad means “we’ll lose another summer season to the pandemic”.

This is “something the travel industry can’t afford”, she added.

“You can book a summer holiday now with confidence by booking a package holiday.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “Airlines are drowning but, rather than throwing us a life raft, the Transport Secretary has just thrown a bucket of cold water at us.”

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He called on the Government to “provide economic support immediately” if it wants the airline industry to survive.

Senior Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, accused the Government of “ripping out” the goalposts on the timetable for lifting restrictions.

People “need to have something to look forward to”, he told Radio 4’s The World At One.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam told ITV News that more knowledge about the effectiveness of vaccines is required before the ban on holidays can be safely lifted.

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He compared the situation to a car on a “very steep hill”, with vaccines acting as the handbrake and restrictions acting as the footbrake.

“I don’t want to take the foot off the pedal in a rash and silly way until I know that the handbrake is holding,” he said.

Prof Van-Tam told the BBC it is “plausible” for other countries to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before they travel.

Mr Shapps revealed he has been in discussions with his counterparts in Singapore and the United States about the possibility of an international certification system.

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“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,” he told Today.

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