Boris Johnson: 'Be patient' with summer holidays - it's 'too early' to make plans

  • Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan

Boris Johnson has told people to be "a little bit more patient" with making holiday plans this year, adding it is "just too early" for people to be certain about what they can do this summer.

The prime minister said he hopes to say more about what restrictions will be in the summer when he sets out a route out of lockdown, which is expected to come on February 22.

Earlier Number 10 said booking a domestic holiday is "a choice for individuals" after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned it is currently "too soon".

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the PM appeared to side with Mr Shapps when asked about summer holidays.

He said: "I'm afraid it is just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer. We hope to be able to say more in the week of the 22nd.

"I understand why people want to make plans now but we're just going to have to be a little bit more patient."

Mr Shapps said “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now", either internationally or domestically as he pointed out the risk posed to the international Covid vaccination effort.

He told ITV News there's "quite a lot of different things that need to come together" before people can go on holiday, such as more progress in the vaccination effort, and a decline in Covid hospital admissions and deaths".

He added: "I'm simply not in a position to provide instruction or guidance at this stage as to whether that will be in time for summer or not."

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Robert Peston on the government's policy on holidays

But Boris Johnson's spokesman, when asked whether people should not book a summer holiday in the UK at the moment, said: "That is a choice for individuals.

"I would point to the fact that during the week of the 22nd we will publish a road map that will set out a timeframe and the scope of the easements that we're looking to introduce.

"We've set out that timeframe clearly and that will allow people to have a greater knowledge and understanding of the path going forward."

The Cabinet minister said Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reveal more about the "route to unlocking this country" when he sets out on February 22 how England will exit from lockdown.

But he said ministers do not yet know whether the PM's roadmap out of lockdown will include any provision for holidays.

"Hold your fire at the moment," Mr Shapps said, "I'm afraid I can't provide any recommendation other than at the moment we need to stay at home and follow the rules".

  • ITV News Midlands Reporter Ben Chapman visits Hunstanton, a popular tourist destination, to look at how businesses are faring during the lockdown

He told the BBC: “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.”

On Tuesday Environment Secretary George Eustice, when asked about summer holidays this year, told ITV News "people have to remain quite cautious about international travel" because the risk of coronavirus variants coming from other countries will "remain quite prevalent".

It comes as the UK prepares to tighten its border controls to minimise the risk of foreign variants being imported and interfering with the vaccine rollout.

New measures in place from Monday to improve self-isolation compliance of those arriving in the UK include mandatory 10 day quarantine in a hotel, with people required to take a Covid test within 72 hours before their flight, and two further tests during isolation before being allowed to leave.

Failure to comply with these measures could result in a fine of up to £10,000, and anyone attempting to hide whether they have been in a red list country in the previous 10 days, faces up to 10 years in jail.

Explaining the tightening of rules, Mr Shapps said: "We do not want to find ourselves stumbling into a variant or something else that sets us back, so [holidays are] dependent, not only on us with regard to international travel, but others as well".

He added: "We need to make sure before people are travelling that other countries have been vaccinated."

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The government is keen to block, in particular, the arrival of Covid variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa, amid concerns about vaccine ability to prevent mild disease.

But on Tuesday evening it was revealed two new, home-grown variants had mutated from the Kent variant, both containing the same E484K mutation found on the Brazilian and South African strains.

One new strain, first identified in Bristol, has been designated a "variant of concern", while the other, first found in Liverpool, is a "variant under investigation".

Public Health England has a "high degree of confidence that the vaccines will work against variants", including the Bristol variant of concern.

Some 76 cases of the two new strains have been found so far in the UK.

Of the fast-spreading Kent variant, there are now 51,550 cases, with an additional 8,116 since the previous update on February 4,

There are at least 170 cases of the South African variant in the UK, including 18 that are not linked to travel, with an increase of 19 since the last update.

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