Govt’s deputy chief medical officer says other countries’ vaccination programmes may determine UK residents’ ability to travel this summer
The government’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, has warned there remains "great uncertainty" over whether summer holidays will be able to go ahead later this year.
Speaking at a government press briefing on Monday (1 March), Van-Tam said a combination of the emergence of new Covid-19 variants and the progress of other countries’ vaccination programmes would play a key role in UK residents’ ability to travel for leisure this summer.
Asked by Sky’s Thomas Moore to "level with the British public" on the prospect of a foreign holiday this summer, Van-Tam said: "I think we are still in a zone of great uncertainty about what the virus will do next.
"On top of that, many of the vaccination programmes in Europe, which is a place where we frequently go on holiday abroad, are running behind ours."
Van-Tam also stressed it would be a decision for destinations to determine the extent to which they reopen to foreign tourists this summer. "Whether we can go on holiday abroad to places such as Europe depends on what other countries will say and do in terms of foreign tourism,” he said.
"That’s the best I can do to level with you, I’m not going to give you a firm answer as I genuinely don’t think there is one at this point. I think I would just say that there has to be great uncertainty at the moment."
The briefing also saw health secretary Matt Hancock pressed on the EU’s plan to introduce a digital green pass to certify vaccination and/or a recent Covid test to allow international and intercontinental travel to resume.
Jill Lawless from the Associated Press asked: "The UK has called for international coordination on getting international travel going again, is that [the green pass] a useful idea and is it something Britain might want to sign up to?"
Hancock responded by repeating Downing Street’s line on the issue, stressing the government was working with its international partners "on any need for certification in terms of having had a vaccine to be able to travel to another country".
"If another country wants to say that you need to have been vaccinated with a recognised vaccine to travel there, we want to enable Brits to be able to take that journey," said Hancock.
"So we are working with international partners. The EU is part of those discussions, as are several other countries around the world. It’s obviously important work.
"What I would also say is that in a sense, this already exists because you need to have a test before you can travel to the UK and as far as I understand it from the details set out today, the EU proposal is that certification includes both whether you’ve had the vaccine and also whether you’ve recently had a test for those who can’t get vaccinated yet, which is particularly important.
"It is something we are working with them and others on, and it matters that we get the details of this right for international travel."