Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Staycations might be allowed in July if spread of coronavirus can be kept down
20 May 2020, 19:38
Brits may be able to enjoy a summer holiday within the UK as soon as July as long as the spread of coronavirus can be kept down, the Culture Secretary has said.
Oliver Dowden said that so-called staycations may be permitted this summer, in what would be a boost for Britons long trapped inside and the tourism industry which is facing billions of pounds in losses.
Vacations abroad are likely to be greatly hindered, with travel restrictions being imposed and airlines' services greatly diminished.
But Mr Dowden raised hopes for holidays at home if the rate of infection, or R value, could be suppressed to avoid creating another surge in cases.
"I would love to get the tourism sector up as quickly as we possibly can. We've set this very ambitious plan to try and get it up and running by the beginning of July," he told the Downing Street press conference.
"Clearly, we can only do it if it's safe to do so because I think the worst thing for our tourism sector would be to start, then see the R rate rise out of control, see a second peak that overwhelms the NHS that we then have to slam on the brakes again."
The news comes as concerns over social distancing were raised after thousands of Brits flocked to beaches to enjoy today's warm weather.
The government's official advice for England states that people can now meet with one other person not from their household in a park or open space, but that social distancing rules of two metres must be upheld.
In Wales, the advice is still to stay home except for very limited purposes and gatherings of more than 2 people in public are not allowed.
However, videos on Southend beach appear to show sunbathers enjoying their new found freedom without social distancing.
The Government is planning to impose a 14-day quarantine programme for anyone arriving in the UK from abroad, with an exception for those coming from Ireland.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has raised the prospects of "air bridges" with countries with similarly low infection rates avoiding the restriction.
The acting chief executive of the Visit Britain tourist board, Patricia Yates, warned MPs of multi-billion pound losses for the industry, but said that 2020 had to be the "year of domestic tourism".
There is already some evidence this could be the case, with campsite booking website Cool Camping saying that Sunday was its strongest day for revenue since it began operating in 2006.
Mr Dowden said Boris Johnson, like himself, was a huge advocate for holidays within the UK.
"Believe me, when we get to the point when we can have British tourism back, perhaps apart from the Prime Minister you won't get a bigger champion of the great British break than me," the Culture Secretary said.
The Prime Minister's last known holiday was a luxury winter break with his fiancee Carrie Symonds to the Caribbean island of Mustique.
That trip prompted questions over who financed the £15,000 getaway after Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross denied funding it, despite the Prime Minister's Commons register of members' interests recording that the Tory donor had done so.