Travel expert Simon Calder has spoken out with regards to a statement from Health Secretary Matt Hancock which insinuated that the government is considering banning all international travel until the end of the summer. The news comes as travel firms and operators try desperately to salvage the industry and help create safe ways for passengers to enjoy their holiday plans.
Mr Hancock had warned that summer holidays were likely to be cancelled this year, saying: “I think that’s likely to be the case, yeah. We haven’t made a final decision on that yet.
“Social distancing of some kind is going to continue and the conclusion from that is that it is likely that big, lavish, international holidays are going to be possible for this summer. I just think that is a reality.”
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising Britons against all non-essential travel for an indefinite period of time but has released no information on when this might be lifted.
Holidays 2020: Matt Hancock suggests summer holidays might not happen
Health Secretary Matt Hancock:
However, Mr Hancock’s comments came as something of a shocking revelation to the travel expert.
Mr Calder said: “My jaw just dropped, I think along with several hundred other jaws from the many people who work in the travel industry in the UK who are doing all they can to try to get plenty of us away on holiday, but crucially no one can travel anywhere at the moment because the Foreign Office travel advice says basically unless it is essential, do not go abroad at all.
“That applies indefinitely. I’ve just been in touch with the Foreign Office and asked, ‘are you going to say anything different ever’ and they said, ‘our consumer advice is under constant review’.
“So no change there and it sounded actually, and I’ve gone back over that clip many times with Matt Hancock, as though they are actively discussing in government ‘well should we keep it there all summer?’”
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Mr Calder also urged the importance of the FCO issuing a more direct end date for the travel ban, which he suggests will be beneficial to travellers and travel companies alike.
“Say we will ban all travel abroad until the end of August, which actually would give at least some certainty, although it would destroy many more jobs in the travel industry,” he said.
Mr Calder added that about 45 flights are still operating from Heathrow, despite the FCO ban.
“Generally about 20 long-haul flights, mostly to North America, 20 European flights and about half a dozen domestic flights,” he revealed.
Holidays 2020: Airports and airlines have been working to devise safe ways for people to travel
Travel operators, including British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, have reportedly sent a list of 45 destinations to the government which they say should be exempt from quarantine rules.
Currently, international arrivals into the UK face a mandatory 14-day quarantine period with authorities threatening to impose fines of £1,000 upon people who break the rule.
Destinations on the proposed list include France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
The “air bridge” would see an agreement between two countries to allow quarantine-free travel between the two nations.
The impact of coronavirus on international travel
Travel experts warn that if the quarantine period stays in place, it could be devastating for the industry which is currently trying to revive itself.
easyJet announced this morning plans to resume 75 percent of its operations by August.
Ryanair has similarly revealed plans to resume around 40 percent of planned flights by July.
It is not yet known if this will increase in August.