Downing Street has not ruled out the prospect of the prime minister embarking on a foreign break this summer, as the travel industry reacted with dismay to a minister telling Britons to holiday at home this summer.
“We wouldn’t speculate on the PM’s plans and will set out any details in the normal manner,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman told journalists at a regular briefing.
Asked if this meant Mr Johnson had ruled out a holiday abroad, the spokesman responded: “He is very focused this week on the G7 and the continued response to the COVID pandemic.”
The comments came after Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News his advice would be to “holiday at home”, adding that he himself will not be travelling abroad this summer.
He encouraged Britons to visit the “great places” that exist in the UK instead.
Asked about the minister’s comments, the PM’s spokesman said Mr Eustice was “speaking personally about his own plans to holiday at home”.
He added: “He set out the advice as it is, there is a green list of destinations where it is possible to travel overseas, people may choose to do so if they wish, otherwise we would advise against travel to amber and red list countries.”
Official government guidance states that ministers “continue to advise against all non-essential travel to some countries and territories” – but not all.
The government’s website adds: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect international travel.
“No travel is risk-free, and many countries have closed their borders or restricted entry to UK travellers.
“Any country may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant.”
It comes a week after the government announced no new countries were being added to the UK’s green travel list, while the popular destination of Portugal was moved to amber.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the change, which came into effect from 4am on Tuesday, as “a difficult decision”.
Travellers returning from Portugal, or any other amber list country, will have to quarantine at home following the review of the government’s travel traffic light system.
Many holidaymakers rushed home overnight to beat the quarantine deadline.
Alan French, the chief executive of travel company Thomas Cook, said there had been “mixed messages” from the government which have left customers “confused and angry”.
“I’m not sure the advice is as clear as we would like it,” he told Sky News.
Also speaking to Sky News, independent travel agent Becky Hayes said: “With the traffic light system it can be a little bit confusing for people. I’ve had lots of questions from clients and people who are desperate to get abroad.”
Noel Josephides, chairman of travel company Sunvil and a former chairman of the travel association ABTA, told Sky News: “I think every effort is being made to sabotage the outbound industry and we just cannot understand why.”
He said the decision to move Portugal to the amber list has “destroyed confidence” among travellers about being able to get away to other popular destinations this summer.
Mr Josephides, who called for tailored support for the travel industry amid continuing uncertainty around international travel, added: “We just do not see why we are being taken to task in trying to make a living this coming summer.”
But Gabriel Scally, professor of public health at the University of Bristol and a member of the Independent SAGE group, said international travel is “just not sensible at the present time”.
“We need to be very cautious about international travel. I would suggest that people should holiday at home in the UK,” he told Sky News.
Professor Scally added that popular tourist resorts are “likely to be melting pots for the exchange of the virus” and “the UK is definitely the safest place to holiday this year”.