Holiday advice ‘crystal clear’, Hancock says after ministerial mixed messages

The European Union will give fully vaccinated tourists the green light to visit resorts – but ministers insisted holidays in Spain and France remain off limits.

Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock sought to clarify confusion over the “amber list” of countries, including most European destinations, to which travel is allowed but not encouraged.

The Prime Minister insisted the position was “very clear” and people should only travel to an amber list country “for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member”.

“You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday,” the Prime Minister told MPs.

Health Secretary Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference: “We have been absolutely crystal clear that you should not go to an amber or red list country on holiday, you should only go in exceptional circumstances.”

This week Environment Secretary George Eustice said people could go to amber-listed countries to visit family or friends as long as they observed quarantine rules on their return, while Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said “some people might think a holiday is essential” and therefore a valid reason to travel.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Government has lost control of the messaging.”

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said “most of the UK population doesn’t understand” the rules on travelling to amber-listed destinations, with people “booking in their droves” to take holidays in places not on the green list this summer.

The airline chief executive told ITV’s Peston: “People are ignoring the short-term restrictions and working out that they’ll be safe to fly in late June, July, August when the school holidays come around, and they’re booking in their literally hundreds of thousands on a daily basis.”

The Government has been under pressure over its travel policy following the introduction of the traffic light system in England on Monday, with Scotland and Wales also implementing similar approaches.

Passengers arriving from amber list countries are required to self-isolate for 10 days and take two tests.

Mr Hancock said 30,000 home visits have been carried out in the last week to ensure people are quarantining.

But Portugal is the only major EU destination currently on the Government’s “green list” for holidays.

Mr Hancock said “it’s a matter for the EU what their international travel rules are” but “right now, with our levels of vaccination really good but not yet there, I think we are wise to take a cautious approach to international travel”.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said vaccines were not 100% effective and the first elements of protection to fail were the jab’s ability to prevent infection and reduce transmission.

“That’s a tricky nuance in terms of the argument that ‘just because you’ve had vaccines it’s entirely safe to go abroad’,” he said.

Prof Van-Tam also pointed out that some parts of Europe had “quite high levels of disease activity” compared to the UK and it was a question of “jumping into a pond with one shark in it or jumping into a pond with 100 sharks in it – it changes the likelihood that you’re going to get bitten.”

The EU move was a “fair ambition” and a “good aspiration” but “we have to move very cautiously”, he said.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “The idea that people not going on holiday is going to shut out every virus is nonsensical.”

International travel rules for England, Wales and Scotland are broadly similar.

In Northern Ireland, journeys to the Common Travel Area – which consists of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man – for visits to family and friends will be allowed from May 24.

But the Stormont Executive has not made a decision about the resumption of international leisure travel from Northern Ireland.

(PA Graphics)

– Three people have died in Scotland due to coronavirus vaccine adverse-effects, out of 2.81 million who received at least one dose by April 30.

– The Prime Minister said there was increasing confidence that the vaccines being used work against all variants, including the highly transmissible Indian strain.

– David Greenhalgh, Conservative leader of Bolton Council, warned there was a “danger of unrest” if local lockdowns were imposed to curb the spread of the Indian variant.

– Some 2,967 cases of the B1617.2 variant have been identified, up from the 2,323 declared on Monday.

– There are 25 people in Bolton Hospital with Covid – the majority are unvaccinated, nearly 90% have not yet had two vaccines.

(PA Graphics)

– As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 2,696 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.

– Vaccination figures to May 18 show 36,985,505 people have received a first dose of – a rise of 174,100 on the previous day – while 20,870,453 have had both jabs, an increase of 324,001.

The travel rules are aimed at preventing cases of coronavirus – and new variants – being imported into the UK.

But the spread of the Indian variant has underlined the problem, with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth telling Sky News “our borders have been about as secure as a sieve throughout this crisis”.