Hancock tells LBC he 'hopes to go' on summer holiday to Cornwall he booked months ago

11 February 2021, 08:31 | Updated: 11 February 2021, 13:09

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told LBC he "hopes" he can still go on his 2021 summer holiday to Cornwall that he booked months ago.

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps both warned that it was still too soon to start booking holidays for this summer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

But on Thursday, Mr Hancock said the government is doing "everything we can" to ensure people can get away for a summer holiday.

Earlier, Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said booking a holiday now is "one hell of a gamble".

Asked by LBC's Nick Ferrari for clarity on the issue of holidays, the health secretary said: "I know that people want certainty, but there is uncertainty because of the pandemic. We're working very hard and we want people to be able to take holidays."

He was then pressed on comments he made 10 days ago where he said he hoped for "a happy and free, great British summer".

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Mr Hancock replied: "In a time of pandemic, there is uncertainty. I absolutely hope for a great British summer and I'm working incredibly hard to try to make sure that can happen and the best part of that is the vaccine rollout is going very well."

The LBC presenter then asked the secretary of state whether he was still going on a holiday to Cornwall this summer.

"I booked a place months ago and of course I hope to but there is this uncertainty that we all talk about," he said.

"We've all been saying the same thing, but I understand how uncertainty is a challenge."

His comments come a day after Boris Johnson warned it was "too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer", and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed "people shouldn't be booking holidays right now".

Holidays are banned under the UK's Covid-19 lockdown, but the travel industry is desperate for rules to be relaxed in time for the vital summer season.

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Earlier, Dr Clarke told LBC: "Where I am is that I'd very much like to be able to go on holiday in the UK or elsewhere, but I think the government is looking at this from the perspective of having perhaps been too optimistic in parts last year, and having had its fingers burned.

"It allowed itself, I think, to be pressured into allowing travel corridors when perhaps some of those were not so wise, and it's looking at that this year and being deliberately cautious because it doesn't want to be in that situation again."

He said this is a fast-moving situation, adding: "We don't know where we're going to be, not only in this country in terms of vaccinations, but in terms of spread of troublesome variants and what other countries are going to have been able to do.

"So it really is too early to say. I think if people were to book holidays now, I'd like to do that myself, it would be one hell of a gamble."

Noel Josephides, chairman of tour operator Sunvil, said he believes once people are vaccinated they will not be worried about travelling abroad.

He told LBC: "To put it bluntly, vaccination isn't only about preventing death, but is giving the ability to live."

Mr Josephides said the prime minister and various ministers have "never been completely accurate" during the pandemic, adding: "This is a huge, huge industry, a million jobs are at stake, and we don't believe that once people are vaccinated they are going to worry about travelling abroad.

"And it's on that basis that we are going ahead. And if, in fact, the government waits until everybody is vaccinated then by that time there won't be a travel industry."

Heathrow announced on Thursday that its passenger volumes were down 89 per cent in January compared with the same month in 2020.

Just 677,000 passengers travelled through the west London airport last month.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye described the introduction of quarantine hotels and additional testing requirements as "essentially a border closure".

He said: "That will inevitably delay the country's recovery and hurt the UK's supply chains. We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the Prime Minister's road map on 22 February."

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