Summer holiday season 'likely to be cancelled' due to coronavirus, says Matt Hancock

12 May 2020, 20:02 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 01:11

Summer holidays are "unilkely" to be going ahead this year
Summer holidays are "unilkely" to be going ahead this year. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Foreign holidays are "unlikely" to go ahead for Brits this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The minister shared the disappointing news to anyone hoping they might be able to get away for the summer while speaking on ITV's This Morning.

"It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer," he said.

"I just think that's a reality of life."

When asked if "summer was cancelled," Mr Hancock told the show he thinks that the prospect is "likely to be the case."

"We haven't made a final decision on that yet but it is clear that we will seek to reopen hospitality, some hospitality, from early July if we keep successfully reducing the spread of this virus," he added.

"But social distancing of some kind is going to continue."

Referring to Mr Hancock's remarks, the prime minister's official spokesman said: "I think the health secretary was reflecting the travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which is that nobody should be travelling apart from for essential reasons - and they don't include holidays abroad."

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the likelihood of European holidays for UK nationals this summer will be "a wait-and-see game."

Labour's Lucy Powell of Manchester Central asked the minister: "Is the government, like European governments, working towards European summer holidays happening this summer, or do we all need to cancel them?

"If it is neither, can they just be a bit more careful with their words."

Mr Shapps replied: "We know that we are unable at the moment, as things stand, to go ahead and do these things because most countries aren't allowing people in and, in any case, the Foreign Office advice is not to travel - it's hugely sad and regrettable, but it is the fact.

"As we progress, and as we get through phase two and phase three, we hope in June and July the situation may change."

Mr Hancock said international holidays are unlikely to be possible this summer
Mr Hancock said international holidays are unlikely to be possible this summer. Picture: PA

The transport secretary stressed he did not want to give Brits "a sense of false hope" and called on people to be "realistic" about the prospect of foreign holidays not going ahead this summer.

This warning comes despite Ryanair announcing its plans to restore 40 per cent of flights from July.

The airline company is set to operate nearly 1,000 flights per day from 1 July subject to European countries lifting flight restrictions and "effective public health measures" being put in place at airports.

Roughly 90 per cent of the airline's pre-Covid-19 route network will be restored but at a reduced rate.

Since the middle of March, the firm has operated a reduced daily schedule of 30 flights between the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe.

During journeys, passengers and crew will need to wear face masks or coverings, they will need to pass temperature checks, and queuing for toilets will be banned.

The airline said: "Toilet access will be made available to individual passengers upon request."

Other measures being introduced include offering a limited range of refreshments on board, cash not being accepted, and disinfecting all surfaces in cabins every night with chemicals that are effective for more than 24 hours.

The carrier will also require all passengers flying in July and August to complete a form when they check-in, stating how long their visit will be and where they are staying.

This information will be provided to EU governments to help them "monitor any isolation regulations they require of visitors on intra-EU flights."

Ryanair chief executive Eddie Wilson said: "It is important for our customers and our people that we return to some normal schedules from 1 July onwards.

"Governments around Europe have implemented a four-month lockdown to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

"After four months, it is time to get Europe flying again so we can reunite friends and families, allow people to return to work and restart Europe's tourism industry, which provides so many millions of jobs."

Also in the Commons, Conservative MP Andrew Percy for Brigg and Goole asked Business Secretary Alok Sharma whether financial burdens being but on people by "rip-off travel companies" who "refuse to offer refunds" would be addressed by the government.

"Be it Hoseasons, Virgin, BA, Ryanair or TUI, my constituents are getting ripped off. So will he run a campaign publicly to inform the consumers of what their rights are in terms of refunds?" he asked.

Mr Sharma said "refunds should be issued within 14 days" and that he is "continuing to have discussions on this issue" with culture ministers.

In the UK, Mr Hancock said the government's decision to lift the ban on driving to beauty spots for exercise should not risk increasing the spread of the virus in such areas.

Asked whether people starting to use beauty spots again could spread Covid-19 in those communities, the health secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Not if people socially distance when they get there, and hence we've kept the socially distancing rules very clearly in place."

Asked if there is a limit on how far people can drive, he said: "No, there isn't. But this isn't for people to move house or to go on holiday or to be able to stay."

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