Covid: Summer holidays 'unlikely' due to risk of new variants, experts warn

In France, a patchwork of new restrictions took effect on Saturday. Credit: AP

Summer holidays are "unlikely" due to the risk of travellers bringing Covid variants back to the UK, experts have warned.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group, said there is a danger strains from abroad may be less susceptible to vaccines.

“I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country."

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London (UCL) echoed these comments.

Appearing on Times Radio he was asked if the possibility of permission to travel to Europe without restrictions could come under plans for the easing of lockdown.

Prof Hayward said there were two things to consider, firstly that “it looks like some European countries are going to be having high levels and I think it’s unlikely that we would want to encourage travel to those countries whilst they have high levels of infection”.

In France, a patchwork of new restrictions took effect on Saturday. Credit: AP

Secondly, he said it was about “keeping an eye on what variant is predominant within each country or even common”.

He added: “I suppose one of the more worrying things about this resurgence is that in some parts of Europe the South African variant is beginning to creep up to higher levels.”The concerns comes after millions of people in France, Poland and Italy were placed under renewed lockdown measures.

In France, a patchwork of new restrictions took effect on Saturday. The measures, which impact the Paris region and the north of the country, will last for at least four weeks.

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Theatres, shopping centres, hotels and cinemas in Poland are now closed until after the Easter holidays. Earlier this week, coronavirus cases in the Eastern European country jumped by more than three quarters compared to the previous week.

Half of Italy's 20 regions have gone in to the strictest form of lockdown amid third wave fears.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would have to employ an "emergency brake" and halt restrictions as the country's infection rates spike.

Germany's head of public health declared on Friday that the country was "now at the beginning of a third wave."

What do warnings that holidays are "unlikely" mean for those who want to travel?

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “The government has made it clear it will make decisions on reopening travel based on the health situation abroad, meaning travel will continue to be restricted and rules will change in line with scientific guidance.

“There remains a financial risk to booking travel currently. That’s why it’s vital that plans to restart international travel take on board consumer concerns and make safety, affordable tests and vaccine passports and reassurance about refunds when travel is disrupted a top priority.

“So far as possible, it’s important that rules and requirements remain consistent, as changing them will leave travellers footing the bill again and further risk undermining consumers’ confidence in booking travel.”