The chair of the home affairs select committee, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, has warned the government risks overpromising on the potential for summer holidays to go ahead this year.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday (1 March), Cooper said new Covid variants would pose a significant risk to the UK’s cautious efforts to reopen its economy and society.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of the country’s Covid lockdown could see domestic travel resume from mid-April, and international travel from 17 May – subject to an in-depth review by a newly reconvened Global Travel Taskforce.
Labour MP Cooper reiterated comments made by home secretary Priti Patel last week when she appeared before the committee, chaired by Cooper, and said it was "too soon" for people to be booking holidays.
Her comments also echoed some of the caution urged by other ministers in recent weeks, who have come in for heavy criticism from the travel sector for downplaying booking rather than the physical act of travelling for leisure, which is currently illegal.
Cooper’s appearance came after Public Health England (PHE) on Sunday (28 February) confirmed six cases of the Brazil variant of Covid had been detected in the UK, three in England and three in Scotland.
Two of the cases in England related to one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil, said PHE, while the third is currently unlinked.
PHE, along with NHS Test and Trace, is following up with all passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Sao Paolo to Heathrow via Zurich, which landed on 10 February – before England’s hotel quarantine regime came into effect on 15 February.
The cases detected in England and Scotland are not being linked.