Holidays abroad are “extremely unlikely” for most Britons this summer due to the risk of importing new variants of COVID-19, a scientist who advises the government said on Saturday, leaving airlines and travel companies bracing for a second lost peak season.
Britain has banned travel for most people during the current lockdown and has said overseas holidays will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest, reports Reuters.
But Mike Tildesley, a scientist on a government advisory body, said the risk of importing vaccine-resistant variants back into the UK would likely scupper the nation’s annual getaway.
“I think international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely,” Tildesley, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, told BBC Radio on Saturday.
There are growing concerns about a new wave of infections across Europe, with rising cases in countries like Germany, France and Italy potentially deterring the UK from re-opening travel routes in May.
Asked about international travel, health minister Matt Hancock said on Saturday that the government would say more on April 12, when it is due to present the details of how and when travel can take place.
“We’ll look at the rates both here and abroad and the impact of new variants to understand whether its safe to make that move,” he told Sky News.
Any ban on travel beyond May 17 would be a further blow for the aviation industry’s recovery prospects.
Airlines and holiday companies such as British Airways (part of International Consolidated Airlines), easyJet and TUI are desperate for travel to resume after a year of COVID-19 restrictions.
Tildesley is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group which reports into the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
“We are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas...because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country,” Tildesley said.