July 2, 2022

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New Covid variants could DELAY holiday restart dates as vaccine minister warns social distancing must continue

NEW Covid variants being reported in the UK could delay the restart of holidays for Brits if they continue to spread across the country.

Last week, the government gave a road map out of lockdown which included domestic holidays resuming from April 12.

Holidays could be delayed due this year due to new Covid strains

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Holidays could be delayed due this year due to new Covid strainsCredit: Alamy Live News

This was followed by May 17 for hotels and group trips, with a date for foreign holidays is yet to be announced next month but hoped for by June 21.

However, a major search has been launched to track down a missing Covid patient who has tested positive for the mutant Brazilian strain of the virus.

Officials say “every effort is underway” to find the infected person after Public Health England today confirmed six cases of the Manaus P1 variant, with with surge testing being launched in South Gloucestershire are two patients were found to have the variant.

This could result in holidays not going ahead as planned.

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi, when asked if the reopening dates could be changed if there are more Brazil variants, said that there are “four tests” that must be passed to be able to follow the lockdown dates.

He told the Today programme: “One is that the vaccination programme continues at pace, two that the vaccinations efficacy and the data that comes through is positive.

“Of course the third is around infection rates. 

“I take a step back – Covid, whatever variant, will still be infecting people the same way.”

Holidays abroad hoped to go ahead from summer - this could be affected

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Holidays abroad hoped to go ahead from summer – this could be affectedCredit: Alamy Live News

He continued: “Social distancing is the most important as it loves social interaction.

“The fourth [test] is the variant which is why we are doing what we are doing in South Gloucester.”

Professor Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE said challenges including the new Brazilian variant, could mean the nation needs to “go backwards” in terms of relaxing restrictions.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is a variant of concern but we are going to be faced with these in the next six months as we move towards relaxing measures – there are going to be challenges on the way – and there is always a risk that we might have to go backwards, and that’s what nobody wants to do is to actually open up and then have to close down again.

“So monitoring these variants, keeping an eye on in terms of what they actually do – so sequencing, for example, viruses in hospitals – I think is a crucial step to know whether or not this variant and other variants in the future, what impact they’re actually having.”

When asked if more travel would risk new variants coming into the country, he said: “It’s inevitable, the risk is never zero – places that have high levels of protection across borders are still having incursions of the virus still coming in.

“You’ve got to weigh that against what’s happening within the country – at the moment we’ve got tens of thousands of people being infected every day. and so putting a lot of effort into preventing handfuls of infections from coming overseas has to be proportionate.

“It is a global problem, and if we remain globally connected, which I think we must, then it is about the rate and the risk of this happening rather than whether it does or not.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper has warned that people shouldn’t be booking summer holidays at all.

When will holidays resume

  • April 12 – self catered holiday homes can be let to single household
  • April 12 – decision on foreign holidays to be announced
  • May 17 – hotels reopen and holiday homes can be let to groups of up to six people from different households or groups from two households with no cap on size
  • June 21 – holiday homes can be let to groups of all sizes

She said: “There is a concern whether the government is raising expectations about summer holidays that they may not be able to meet.

“We’ve been advised by scientists that the strength of these border measures become even more important as domestic cases fall.

“The government is encouraging people to think that those summer holidays are all going to be possible and international travel is going to return.

When asked if people shouldn’t be booking, she said: “I think so, yes.”

Her comments echo Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who last month warned people might not go on holiday at all this year.

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Despite this, holiday destinations including Spain and Greece have already said they will be welcoming Brits this summer.

However, the UK is leading the vaccine rollout, with more than 20m people now having their first dose, working out to 29 per cent of the population.

EU holiday hotspots are much further behind – Greece and Spain are just at 5.5 per cent and five per cent, respectively.

Dr Hilary Jones says missing person with Brazil Covid variant is of ‘great significance’ to possible transmission