Britain doing everything to ensure people can have summer vacations: minister


LONDON (Reuters) – The British government is doing “everything we can” to ensure the public can get a summer vacation this year but could not provide certainty on whether or not people should book breaks now, health minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

Ministers have faced criticism, including from members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own party, about giving out mixed messages on whether people should arrange summer holidays in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, transport minister Grant Shapps said people should not book vacations either domestically or abroad until more was known about the vaccination programme’s success but others, including Johnson given more optimistic messages.

“I do understand the yearning for certainty, but certainty is hard in a pandemic. We are doing everything we can to make sure people can have that holiday in the summer,” Hancock, who said he had booked a vacation in southwest England, told Sky News.

He said people “really get that” there was uncertainty following the problems caused by the pandemic over the last year and needed to be patient.

“I think that we’ve all been talking in exactly the same terms that there is uncertainty but we want to bring an end to that uncertainty and of course it is the vaccine programme that is our route out of this,” Hancock said.

So far, Britain has given a first vaccine shot to more than 13 million people and is also bringing in new strict border controls, which make it illegal to go on holiday, to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country.

Airlines and the travel industry have called for clarity and a clear route map out of restrictions, fearing this summer could be make or break for many.

Heathrow Airport, Britain’s busiest, said on Thursday passenger numbers had plunged 89% in January compared to the same month last year and warned more jobs were at risk.