Covid: Boris Johnson 'optimistic' about prospect of summer holidays as coronavirus levels fall

Boris Johnson is hopeful that people will be able to holiday this year. Credit: PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is "optimistic" about the prospect of people being able to go on holidays this summer, suggesting that some coronavirus lockdown restrictions may have eased by then.

Mr Johnson said hopes of summer holidays in Britain depend on whether the UK can continue pushing down rates of Covid-19, and on the success of the coronavirus vaccination programme.

He refused to put a timetable on when restrictions will have lifted sufficiently enough to allow for holidays as he declined to say whether the UK would achieve its vaccination targets.

"I don't want to give too much concrete by way of dates for our summer holidays. I am optimistic - I understand the reasons for being optimistic - but some things have got to go right," he said during a visit to Batley, West Yorkshire.

"The vaccine programme has got to continue to be successful. We have got to make sure we don't get thrown off course by new variants, we have got to make sure that we continue to keep the disease under control and the level of infections come down."

It is currently illegal throughout the UK, due to various lockdowns, for anyone to go on holiday, either within Britain or abroad.

The government has said the earliest date for any relaxation of lockdown in England is 8 March, when it is hoped schools will be allowed to reopen.

The relaxation of rules depends on local coronavirus transmission levels, pressure on NHS hospitals, and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

The PM said the rollout of the vaccination programme has been "phenomenal" but declined to be drawn on whether the government would meet its targets.

"I think it would be unwise to speculate at the moment. I think the NHS, the pharmacies, the volunteers, helped by the Army, they have done an outstanding job," he said.

"The rollout has been phenomenal so far but it is still, relatively speaking, early days."

Over the weekend Health secretary Matt Hancock suggested the UK could enjoy a “happy and free” summer this year.

Speaking on BBC’s Politics East programme Mr Hancock said: "In six months we'll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer – I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated." He added: “I think we are going to have a great summer, but we will have a tough few months between now and then.”

Prime Minister Johnson said there were signs England's lockdown measures were working but it was too early to "take your foot off the throat of the beast" by easing restrictions.

Johnson: It's too early to ease restrictions

The PM told reporters: "We are starting to see some signs of a flattening and maybe even a falling off of infection rates and hospitalisations.

"But don't forget that they are still at a very high level by comparison with most points in the last 12 months, a really very high level.

"So the risk is if you take your foot off the throat of the beast, as it were, and you allow things to get out of control again then you could, alas, see the disease spreading again fast before we have got enough vaccines into people's arms.

"That's the risk."

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