Watch: 'We're doing everything we can' to allow summer holidays, Hancock insists
Matt Hancock has insisted the government is doing “everything we possibly can” to ensure Brits can enjoy summer holidays this year, despite pessimism from some medical experts.
The health secretary, who has already booked a break in Cornwall, urged people to be “patient” over the prospect of getting away.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We are doing everything that we possibly can to make sure that people can have a holiday this summer but the vaccine rollout is absolutely essential to that.
“We will set out more in more detail when we can, but at the moment unfortunately there is that uncertainty still.”
But Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said booking a holiday now is “one hell of a gamble”.
He told LBC: “Where I am is that I’d very much like to be able to go on holiday in the UK or elsewhere, but I think the government is looking at this from the perspective of having perhaps been too optimistic in parts last year, and having had its fingers burned.
“It allowed itself, I think, to be pressured into allowing travel corridors when perhaps some of those were not so wise, and it’s looking at that this year and being deliberately cautious because it doesn’t want to be in that situation again.”
He said this is a fast-moving situation, adding: “We don’t know where we’re going to be, not only in this country in terms of vaccinations, but in terms of spread of troublesome variants and what other countries are going to have been able to do.
“So it really is too early to say. I think if people were to book holidays now, I’d like to do that myself, it would be one hell of a gamble.”
The disparity between the government and medical experts feeds into the narrative that the government’s messaging on summer holidays this year is not consistent.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Boris Johnson warned it was “too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer”, while transport secretary Grant Shapps claimed “people shouldn’t be booking holidays right now”.
However, the PM’s official spokesman said booking a summer holiday was “a choice for individuals”, while Hancock said in December he has already booked a break in Cornwall, adding that he had “high confidence that the summer of 2021 will be a bright one”.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg asked the PM whether people could book summer holidays yet, but her frustration at Johnson saying he would say more after 22 February was caught on air.
Holidays are banned under the lockdown, but the travel industry is desperate for rules to be relaxed in time for the vital summer season.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the aviation business has gone for almost a full year with virtually no revenue and warned that the only thing they can now do “is to slash their costs, and unfortunately that often means people lose their jobs”.
At Heathrow alone, Holland-Kaye estimated that between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs have been lost in the last 11 months.
He added: “Unless we see some recovery plan from the government and some support for the aviation sector financially then I’m afraid that more jobs are at risk.”
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