MATT Hancock has admitted he's already booked a summer trip to Cornwall – despite Boris Johnson insisting it is too early to make holiday plans.
His remarks risk accusations of hypocrisy after a mixed day of messages on which cabinet ministers offered wildly different answers over whether it was safe to plan a summer getaway.
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The Health Secretary, who has traditionally been in favour of heavier restrictions during the pandemic, said it was a "matter of fact" that he's already planning a break in the South West.
But he told Sky News that it is still too soon to give fellow Brits any certainty over whether they should book their own holidays either at home or abroad.
He said: "I do understand, of course, the yearning for certainty, but certainty is hard in a pandemic. It is difficult at this point and people will have to be patient.
"We are doing everything we can to make sure people can have their holiday in the summer, and even before then to be able to see their loved ones.
"Even before we get to whether or where we're going on holiday, how soon we can see and hug our loved ones is important.
"Thankfully because the vaccine rollout is going so well and because take up is so high that will all help us to get out of this and to be able to get back to normal."
Mr Hancock told the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Tuesday his own holiday is going ahead despite the confusion.
One MP in the meeting said: “He says we should be looking forward to a great summer.”
But asked today whether the Government’s advice was for people to book a break, or not to book one, he couldn’t give an answer.
He would only say: “It’s neither. People understand that. It may be more difficult for headline writers, but the people are smarter than all that.”
The Health Secretary is amongst senior Tories facing growing fury both within and outside the party over Cabinet flip-flopping on hols advice.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon demanded ministers “get a grip on the situation and level with the public and travel firms”.
He fumed “The mixed messages on summer holidays are creating chaos for families.”
Top Tories are also enraged by the confusion ministers have sown with contradictory statements on whether Brits can get away this summer.
Veteran Tory MP Sir Charles Walker fumed: “We had summer holidays last year when we didn’t have a vaccine.
Now we’ve got vaccines coming out of our ears, we are told, ‘Don’t book a summer holiday,’ for crying out loud.”
Another top Tory raged: “We are in danger of making “holiday” a dirty word when it should be exactly the sort of aspirational thing we are celebrating.”
Travel industry bosses have also torn into the Government.
Brian Strutton, of pilots' union Balpa, said: “Airlines are drowning but, rather than throwing us a life raft, the Transport Secretary has just thrown a bucket of cold water at us.”
ABTA said Brits can still book with confidence as package holidays would be protected from changes.
A spokesman said: “If we wait for the full rollout of the vaccination programme before people start to travel overseas, we’ll lose another summer season to the pandemic — something the industry can’t afford.”
Yesterday morning Grant Shapps prompted fury by insisting that Brits shouldn’t be booking holidays.
The transport secretary declared: “People shouldn’t be booking holidays right now – not domestically or internationally.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps added that travelling abroad would depend on "everybody having their vaccinations” in the UK – and potentially abroad.
Though Britain is on course to immunise large swathes of the adult population by summer, other countries have seen the rollout hampered by production delays and a struggle to acquire doses.
Adding to the confusion, Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing yesterday it was “just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer”.
Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail that, despite growing pessimism over the summer break, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Culture secretary Oliver Dowden were working on packages to promote getaways in the UK.
An insider said: “We are going to strain every sinew to let people have a holiday this summer.”
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing yesterday, the PM said he hoped he could reveal whether Brits could go on holiday when he outlines his roadmap out of lockdown on February 22.
Asked whether people could book a summer break, he stressed: “In the week of the 22nd, as I said, we'll be setting out the roadmap.
"I hope that we'll be able to give some clarity to people there.
"I am afraid it is just too early for people to be certain about what we will be able to do this summer.”
Boris also confirmed the Government is involved in speaking with travel firms about an app which will allow people to go on holiday – and prove they will have had the vaccine.
The uncertainty over the summer break comes after ministers clamped down on border controls in a bid to thwart new variants of the virus entering the UK.
Matt Hancock said yesterday that travellers who dupe border authorities when coming back from Covid “red” countries would face a £10,000 fine or a lengthy spell behind bars.
Attempting to signal to the world that “Britain is closed” because of Covid, people forced to quarantine in hotels will also face fines of up to £2000 for failing to take covid tests after arrival – and the isolation period will be extended if they continue to refuse.
The new rules mean that anyone arriving from a "high-risk" country, which includes Portugal, the UAE, South America and South African nations, is not allowed to leave the 10 day quarantine – and will have to pay to quarantine at a hotel.
From February 15, the quarantine hotel rules will be enforced, which will cost £1,750 per person, which will have to be booked before travel.
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