A government minister has warned British travellers not to book summer holidays. The vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, was asked on Sky News if it was too soon for the public to book holidays.
“Absolutely,” he responded. “I think it's far too early.
“There's still 37,000 people in hospital with Covid at the moment. It’s far too early for us to even speculate about the summer.”
The remarks were met with a barrage of criticism from the travel industry, which is ending its worst January on record in terms of forward bookings.
Normally the first month of the year sees the highest number of holiday sales.
Sutton Travel, based in the Midlands, tweeted: “Travel agencies and tour operators are going to be closing by the day, with tens of thousands of experienced, loyal, hard-working travel professionals being added as stats to the government’s ever-increasing unemployment numbers.”
The minister repeated the warning on BBC Breakfast, when Dan Walker asked: “What is your message to those who are thinking about booking a holiday in the future in the summer and beyond that? What do you say to them this morning?”
Mr Zahawi was speaking as ministers are preparing to announce mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals to the UK.
The scheme is expected to apply to arrivals from southern Africa, South America and Portugal.
Paul Goldstein, co-owner of Kicheche Safari Camps in Kenya, said: “Just when I think this government can deliver no more blows to the beleaguered travel industry, they conjure up another piece of utter unenforceable nonsense.
“This whole hotel quarantining is ridiculous. Someone needs to inform the government that this horse bolted 10 months ago. It is absurd to try to compare ourselves with Australia or NZ.
“This is the latest charade in a whole catalogue of idiotic ruses designed to deflect attention from their abominable handling of the virus.”
Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who is now chair of the health and social care select committee, was cautiously optimistic about holidays later in the year.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today, he said: “I think things could change quite dramatically in the summer months.
“But until that point, it’s really a race to make sure we break the transmission as much as we possibly can.”
A decision on hotel quarantine is expected to be announced this week.