Exclusive

Minister dashes summer holiday hopes, telling LBC travel restrictions here to stay

31 January 2021, 12:21 | Updated: 31 January 2021, 13:12

By Joe Cook

Government minister Liz Truss has told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday it would be “very dangerous” to make promises about summer holidays, conceding restrictions on international travel are here for the foreseeable future.

The minister for international trade told Tom Swarbrick “it is far too early to make” predictions on whether Brits will be allowed to travel for leisure over the summer.

Currently all non-essential travel out of the UK is banned, with the government this week pledging to turn back travellers at the border who don’t have an essential reason for leaving the country.

Anyone entering the country must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken less than 72 hours before departure, with those travelling from the 30 most high risk countries forced to pay to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

Asked by Tom whether these measures were likely to become “quite permanent” and would be in place for the “foreseeable future”, Ms Truss said: “Yes”.

Read more: Border restrictions here for foreseeable future, SAGE member tells LBC

Read more: Jeremy Hunt tells LBC the EU made 'catastrophic misstep' over Article 16 U-turn

“The priority is opening schools,” the minister explained, adding: “Children are desperate to go back to school, it is really important for their education - parents, it is important for them as well.

“We have to just focus on step by step and summer holidays, I’m afraid, are a lower priority than getting kids back to school.”

However, Ms Truss added that there is an “awful amount of water to flow under the bridge before summer”.

“If there is one thing we have learnt during the coronavirus crisis so far, is how unpredictable things are, what things could emerge,” she continued.

“I think it would be very dangerous for a government minister to go on your show making promises about people’s summer holidays.”

Read more: No10 'confident' over Covid vaccine supplies despite EU row, Michael Gove says

Read more: 'The screams keep me awake at night': Hero teens describe life on the Covid frontline

A lack of consumer confidence in booking summer holidays is likely to hit hard the already fledgling travel industry.

Reacting to Liz Truss’ comments, a spokesperson for Airlines UK, which represents airlines registered in the country, told LBC: “We know there is huge pent-up demand to travel this summer but we recognise also that restrictions can only be removed once it is safe to do so.”

While accepting that “concern for public health must always be the number one priority of ministers”, Airlines UK are calling for the government to set out a “roadmap” for how the economy will be reopened.

“We’re clear though that the sector will struggle to survive another summer without revenue and that Government support would need to be forthcoming if restrictions remain in place over the longer-term,” they warned.

Read more: 'Too early' for Brits to book summer holidays, Dominic Raab tells LBC

Similarly, travel industry body ABTA, which represents 4,300 travel brands, told LBC the government needs to "work with the travel industry to develop a route forward for reopening travel which is consistent across the whole of the UK”.

A spokesperson for ABTA continued: "The government urgently needs to provide tailored financial support to travel agents and tour operators to help them get through the crisis."

"Travel has been affected by the pandemic for almost 12 months now, with travel businesses generating little or no income."

Read more: WHO team visits Wuhan market where first Covid-19 infections detected

However, speaking to Swabrick on Sunday, Shadow Policing Minister Sarah Jones hinted at cross-party support for keeping travel restrictions in place over the summer.

“I think this is going to be a very difficult decision. We have had a year now where our border policy has been utterly failing our population,” the Labour MP told LBC.

“We are going to have to see where we get to, I can’t predict where we are. I really hope - we all desperately want to get back to normal as quickly as possible - but we have to do the right thing.

“We can’t have new strains coming in when we are trying to vaccinate everyone to keep them safe.”