Prime Minister Boris Johnson will provide “a road map” for ending lockdown on February 22 but without “specific detail” on relaxing international travel restrictions.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed the limits to the plan for re-opening the economy and restarting travel to be revealed later this month, and said it remains impossible to predict whether people will be able to travel on holiday abroad this summer.
Appearing before the Transport Select Committee of MPs yesterday (February 3), Shapps said: “We don’t know what the situation will be this summer.”
Quizzed by MPs on whether people will be able to travel on holiday later in the year, Shapps insisted: “No government wants to tell people what to do. But coronavirus is a fact.
“We have to ensure people are aware of what they can and can’t do and right now you can’t travel.”
He said the “early signs” for summer travel “are encouraging, with the roll-out of vaccinations”. But he added: “We can do that [roll out vaccination] in this country, but it has to be done in the places people will go to and we have no control of that.”
People could not expect the Prime Minister to clarify later this month when travel would be possible, he said, insisting: “February 22 will be the roadmap.
“The Prime Minister will lay out an approach and say ‘If we have, by this time, done this, we could do that. [But] I don’t think it will include specific detail. We don’t control the virus.”
However, he told MPs: “I can promise an Aviation Recovery Plan will go into specific detail [and] I will be providing an aviation recovery ‘approach’ just as soon as we see a mapping out on February 22.”
The recovery plan itself will not appear until later in the year. Shapps explained: “The best I can give you [on a date for the plan] is later this year. That is not to be evasive – I just can’t tell you the path of the coronavirus. We’re working on it, but I don’t want to commit to a publishing date.
“We can’t publish the Aviation Recovery Plan until we see a clear route out and we can‘t predict that very confidently.”
He added: “I understand the frustration. In the summer [last year], we all hoped we wouldn’t have a second wave of the virus. That changed things.”
Shapps defended the planned introduction of hotel quarantine for arrivals from ‘high-risk’ destinations and dismissed calls from opposition MPs for a blanket ban.