Should you book a summer holiday… or not?
Under lockdown restrictions, all non-essential travel is currently banned. But with the vaccination program going well and aiming to vaccinate all over 50s by the end of May, travel companies are advertising holidays for sale and urging people to book.
But there have been mixed messages from the government. Prime minister Boris Johnson has said it is “too early” to plan holidays, while transport secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that it is “too soon for people to consider holidays domestically or overseas”.
However, health secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that he has booked a summer break in Cornwall with his family.
The travel and transport union TSSA has accused the government’s indecision of “sinking our travel trade”.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “Companies, jobs and whole swathes of the industry will be lost forever. This is devastating for those who work in travel but it’s also dashing the hopes of so many of us who want to know we can take a break – in the UK or abroad – to ease recovery from this dreadful virus.
“The government has to provide a clear pathway and specific support for the travel trade and operators such as Eurostar. These companies have been worst impacted by travel restrictions, short-notice changes to travel advice, failed test, track and trace, and in many cases exacerbated by Brexit.”
Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps to ask him to get a grip on the situation and level with the public and travel and transport businesses.
The letter says: “The mixed messages coming from government on summer holidays are creating chaos for families and businesses.
“Today, you said that people should not book a holiday at this time. But just a few days ago the prime minister said he was ‘optimistic’ about people being able to go away, and the health secretary – like many other families – appears to have already booked his trip.”
Earlier this week the government announced the details of its quarantine hotels plan for arrivals in England and Wales from ‘red list’ countries with dangerous Covid variants or high infection levels.
The new coronavirus variants that have appeared in South Africa and Brazil mean that both those destinations, as well as Portugal, are on a list of 33 high-risk countries.
The minimum 10-day hotel stay costs £1,750 per person. Under the scheme, arrivals who don’t stay in quarantine hotels as per the rules face fines up to £10,000.
Travellers who lie about where they have been to avoid hotel quarantine face up to 10 years in prison.
In Scotland, all international arrivals are required to stay in hotel quarantine, also at a cost of £1,750 per person.
The ever-changing coronavirus situation around the world, and the risk that other countries will be added to the red list, means a summer holiday could end up being very expensive.
Rory Boland, travel editor at Which, tweeted: “For me, hotel quarantine probably closes the door on holidays abroad this summer. The risk of being away and the country you’re in being added to the red list is a £1,750 gamble.”