Travel won’t be possible until everybody vaccinated, transport secretary says

The transport secretary has raised the prospect of international travel being outlawed until all UK adults have been vaccinated. 

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Grant Shapps said travelling abroad would depend on “everybody having their vaccinations” in the UK – and potentially abroad.

He was speaking after the government revealed plans for many arrivals to the UK to go into hotel quarantine, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison for people who fail to disclose a visit to Portugal or other “red-list” countries within the past 10 days.

The presenter, Louise Minchin, asked Mr Shapps: “There’s so much concern from many people, including of course the travel industry, about how you lift this – so what is the pathway, what needs to be the difference for this to change?”

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“First of all, everybody having their vaccinations,” the transport secretary said. The government expects the programme to be completed in the autumn.

Ms Minchin, asked: “Until that’s done, these restrictions won’t be lifted?”

“Yes,” Mr Shapps responded, before going on to talk about the prime minister’s planned announcement on 22 February about easing some of the lockdown measures.

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“We’ll need to wait for other countries to catch up as well, in order to do that wider international unlock,” he added.

The transport secretary also told BBC Breakfast that jail terms of up to 10 years for people who lied on their passenger locator form was appropriate.

“I think the British public would expect pretty strong action,” he said.

In a move that will anger the travel industry, Mr Shapps warned prospective holidaymakers against making any plans.

He told BBC Today: “On the shrinking chance that there’s anybody listening to this interview at this stage and thinking of booking a holiday under the current circumstances, bear in mind you cannot legally do that at the moment.

“Until you know the result of a lockdown which we can’t know until we have more data, more information, more information on vaccines as well, please don’t go ahead and book holidays for something which at this stage it is illegal to actually go and do – whether it’s here or abroad.

“Further down the line I simply don’t know the answer to the question of where we’ll be up to this summer. It’s too early to be able to give you that information. You’d want to wait until that’s clear before booking anything.

“The best advice is: do nothing at this stage.”

Earlier on Sky News, Mr Shapps claimed: “We’ve had [quarantine] in place since last spring.”

In fact, the government ended quarantine in March 2020, and reintroduced it in June.

The transport secretary also said the number of hotel rooms had increased since the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said 4,600 had been contracted.

Over 5,000 hotel rooms immediately available, said Mr Shapps.

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