BRITAIN'S summer holidays abroad were plunged into further doubt today as ministers poured cold water on going overseas thanks to Europe's spiralling infection rate.
When asked about whether it's going to be possible to jet off abroad, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Government "can't be deaf and blind" to what is going on in Europe and warned against being "reckless in any way".
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And he confirmed he's not yet booked a holiday away.
He told Sky's Sophy Ridge this morning: "The Transport Secretary said recently it's highly unlikely there'll be foreign holidays, as such, this side of May.
"But we're going to wait for task force to report in April."
And in a chat with BBC's Andrew Marr, he said: "Even though the United Kingdom is almost leading the world on vaccination rates over half the adult population, it's really important that we don't import new variants to undermine all that hard work."
Brits won't be able to travel abroad until May 17 at the earliest. However, the Government has yet confirmed its plans for holidays.
It comes as:
- Covid fatalities in the UK drop by almost 80 per cent in a month
- The UK is on the brink of a jabs war with the EU amid fears the bloc will withhold 19million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine
- Boris Johnson plots to ramp up the UK's own vaccine production centres
- The PM faces a Tory rebellion on plans to extend the Coronavirus Act for a further six months
- Cops were pelted with bottles during an anti-lockdown protest in London
But he admitted breaks on the continent may not happen in 2021 as Europe battles surging infections amid the EU's vaccine roll-out blunders.
"We can't be deaf and blind to what's going on outside UK," he said.
"If we were to be reckless and import a new variant, what would people say about that?"
And he said plans for a break are "premature" and "potentially risky".
"This national effort to control this pandemic, all the indicators in the right direction at the moment and let's take it step by step," he said.
He made the claims just a day after Government scientist Dr Mike Tildesley said holidays abroad are "highly unlikely" this year.
He said allowing holidaymakers to flock to foreign countries could "jeopardise" the UK's vaccination campaign and let new Covid variants in.
A deadly third wave is sweeping Europe, fuelled by the AstraZeneca vaccine fiasco.
The EU's shambolic jab rollout, combined with a sharp rise in infections, has seen several areas plunged back into lockdown in the past week.
And Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has already warned “people shouldn’t be booking holidays”.
Dr Mary Ramsay of Public Health England echoed fears over holidays in an interview this morning – but admitted it was still too early to decide either way.
She said: "Numbers are going up at the moment in continental Europe and that's very concerning.
"Hopefully they will get their vaccine programmes up on track a bit more and that will bring those down.
"But obviously, you know, the safest thing is to stay where you are, and to avoid anything that increases your risk."
She also warned that having the vaccine didn't prevent all the spread of the virus, and people could still pass it on to others.
"We really don't want to jeopardise what has been an amazingly successful programme by allowing more circulation of unwelcome strains," she added.
Meanwhile, Tim Hawkins of Manchester Airport said the return to flying may have to be "limited" and staggered over the months to come – but urged ministers not to write off holidays completely.
Elsewhere, Mr Wallace hit out at at the EU after the bloc doubled down on its threat to block 19million Covid vaccine doses to Britain.
He said the Commission "knows deep down the world is watching what happens" and said it would suffer "reputational damage" if it went ahead with the blockade.
"The rest of the world is looking at the Commission on how it conducts itself," he said.
"If contracts get broken, that's a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rule of law."
And he said the UK is already planning to accelerate the manufacture of vaccines here – rather than on the continent.
"The UK already has its own manufacturing capability due to decisions the Government took earlier on," he said.
"We are always exploring where to increase manufacture capability."
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