Door ‘is not shut’ on foreign holidays this summer, says Matt Hancock

Holidays: Matt Hancock shares concerns over international travel

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Matt Hancock insisted international travel had not been ruled out, though the priority was enabling people in the UK to see friends and family. He told ITV’s This Morning the “biggest problem” was from variants such as those first found in South Africa and Brazil, and it was not yet known if vaccines were effective against them.

He said: “We’re not yet sure, but we’re doing the science in Porton Down, and watching very closely, and if that all goes well, then we haven’t got a problem and then we’ll be much more relaxed about international travel. We will know more over the next few weeks.”

Public Health England’s lab in Porton Down is desperately trying to determine whether current vaccines are less protective against variants, and if so by what degree. Firms including AstraZeneca are already working on new jabs that could be rolled out in the autumn.

Mr Hancock said he had a “lot of sympathy” for the travel industry, adding: “We may get to a position where if you’ve had your jab, then other countries will say, ‘You’ve got to have the jab to come in.’ And so we’ll make sure everybody can do that.” Asked if there may be foreign holidays this summer, he said: “There may well be, I wouldn’t rule that out.

“The door is not shut, it’s just too early to say, but what we can say with confidence is that the unlocking at home is on track.”

It comes after experts said staycations should be encouraged. 

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of epidemiology at University College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a risk where you’ve got high rates of infection. I’m for staycations.”

Overseas holidays are banned, but the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is due to report early next month and set out how and when foreign holidays could resume.

Under England’s roadmap, the earliest date that overseas leisure travel could be permitted is May 17.

Mr Hancock said: “I’m going on holiday in the UK. I can’t wait. I love this country, I’ve had my holiday booked since last year.”

More than 40 MPs and peers are today backing a call from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation for the Government to introduce a risk-based approach to international travel.

This would allow for no or minimal restrictions for travel to low-risk nations, rapid testing for international arrivals where required and “test to release” to keep quarantine periods as low as possible.

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