Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has said it is “too soon” for British travellers to start booking holidays.
In a move likely to hit the hospitality sector, Shapps told the Today programme: “First of all, I should say, people should not be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally.
“The prime minister will say more about the route to unlocking this country, starting when he speaks about it on February 22nd.
“But we do not know yet whether that will include information on things like holidays, simply because we do not know where we will 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 is too soon.”
In response to the comments, an ABTA spokesperson said travellers should consider booking regardless.
“You can book a summer holiday now with confidence by booking a package holiday through an ABTA member, and many travel companies are also offering additional flexibility to take into account the uncertainty created by the pandemic,” the trade body said.
“If we wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK before people start to travel overseas, we’ll lose another summer season to the pandemic – something the travel industry can’t afford.
“We need a reopening strategy that keeps up with the developing medical situation and with medical understanding, and considers the role of optional vaccine certificates and testing together to open up travel.
“The government also needs to provide tailored financial support to help travel businesses through the difficulties they are facing.”
At the same time, Shapps offered a defence of plans for jail sentences of up to ten-years for travellers arriving in England who lie on their passenger locator forms about visiting 33 so-called red list countries.
Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption and former attorney general Dominic Grieve have both criticised the measure.
Shapps says it is a tariff and it is not necessarily how long someone would go to prison for.
“But I do think it is serious if people put others in danger by deliberately misleading by saying you were not in Brazil or South Africa or one of the red list countries.”
He added the British public would expect “pretty strong action” because of mutations of the virus in other countries.
The prison terms were part of a raft of new measures unveiled yesterday designed to slow the spread of new variants of Covid-19.