Nicholas CecilWed, 10 February 2021, 8:13 am
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News: “The truth is we just don’t know how the virus will respond both to the vaccines and of course how people will respond and therefore to the social distancing and those kind of measures, and therefore exactly when we will be able to unlock.
“So I’m afraid I can’t give you a definitive, will there or will there not be the opportunity to take holidays this next year either at home or abroad.”
Mr Shapps also made clear that which countries people will be able to travel to could depend on the level of vaccination in them, meaning the EU’s slow pace of roll-out of jabs may impose limitations on some European destinations.
“The key question…when will we be able to travel, when will we be able to do international travel, the answer is we don’t know the answer to that question yet,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“It depends on both the level of vaccination here and critically elsewhere.
“And as I mentioned, we have done 13 million plus vaccinations which is just more than the whole of the EU put together.
“So we will need to wait for other countries to catch up as well in order to be able to do that wider international unlock because we can only control the situation here in the UK.”
It came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced ten-year jail sentences for travellers who try to conceal journeys to high-risk countries as part of Government’s plan to tackle coronavirus variants.
Those caught lying about their movements could be fined £10,000 or be jailed for 10 years.
Mr Hancock indicated the measures might be in place until the autumn if vaccine booster jabs are needed in response to coronavirus variants.
He also confirmed the new “enhanced testing” regime for all international travellers, with two tests required during the ten-day quarantine process from Monday.
Those who fail to take a test face a £1,000 fine, followed by a £2,000 penalty and an extension to their quarantine period, to 14 days, if they miss the second test.
Speaking about the measures on Wednesday, Mr Shapps said “100%” people will need to adhere to going into quarantine hotels, when asked if there will be exemptions to the rules.
When asked if a woman who had travelled to Portugal following the death of her father would still be faced with a bill, Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “If she doesn’t come back before Monday, that is right.
“You do get these cases, which we have seen throughout the whole of the coronavirus, where sadly families throughout the UK have been impacted by this and sometimes haven’t been able to say goodbye to loved ones.
“If there are harsher cases, people should of course contact the embassies and posts in various different countries.
“The answer is 100% people will need to adhere to going into these managed quarantine hotels after Monday.
“And we do plead with people, bear in mind, the law is that you cannot travel, people shouldn’t be travelling for leisure purposes, holidays and that sort of thing, domestically or internationally.”
Travel experts have warned that the new testing and quarantine hotel regime will make summer holidays abroad prohibitively expensive for many people.
However, the Government also appears to be working on a system of “vaccine passports” or vaccine certificates which could enable holidays abroad to go ahead.
The International Air Transport Association is in talks with the Government about a coronavirus vaccination app for travellers, according to its chief executive.
The trade body is working with carriers on the TravelPass app, which will give people flying abroad the ability to share their coronavirus test and vaccination results.
Alexandre de Juniac told the BBC’s Newscast podcast that the app could be rolled out from April and that discussions with the UK Government have been “very fruitful”.
“We should not anticipate, but the UK authorities are among those with whom we have the closest link on this element,” he said. Mr de Juniac confirmed reports that the app is being trialled by IAG, the parent company of British Airways.
Last week, Downing Street said the Government has no “current plans” for coronavirus immunity passports amid reports that British officials have started work on an official certification programme.
A No 10 spokesman said: “There are still no current plans to roll out vaccine passports. Going on holiday is currently illegal.”