The European Union will give fully vaccinated tourists the green light to visit resorts – but ministers insisted holidays in Spain and France remain off limits.
The Prime Minister insisted the position was “very clear” and people should only travel to an amber list country “for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member”.
“You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday,” the Prime Minister told MPs.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference: “We have been absolutely crystal clear that you should not go to an amber or red list country on holiday, you should only go in exceptional circumstances.”
But Mr Hancock added “you don’t necessarily have to ban everything” even if the Government advised against it.
‘The government has lost control of the messaging’
This week Environment Secretary George Eustice said people could go to amber-listed countries to visit family or friends as long as they observed quarantine rules on their return, while Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said “some people might think a holiday is essential” and therefore a valid reason to travel.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The Government has lost control of the messaging.”
The Government has been under pressure over its travel policy following the introduction of the traffic light system in England on Monday, with Scotland and Wales also implementing similar approaches.
Passengers arriving from amber list countries are required to self-isolate for 10 days and take two tests.
Mr Hancock said 30,000 home visits have been carried out in the last week to ensure people are quarantining.
In Brussels, EU ambassadors backed plans to allow vaccinated holidaymakers to visit the bloc this summer.
But Portugal is the only major EU destination currently on the Government’s “green list” for holidays.
‘A cautious approach’
Mr Hancock said “it’s a matter for the EU what their international travel rules are” but “right now, with our levels of vaccination really good but not yet there, I think we are wise to take a cautious approach to international travel”.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said vaccines were not 100% effective and the first elements of protection to fail were the jab’s ability to prevent infection and reduce transmission.
“That’s a tricky nuance in terms of the argument that ‘just because you’ve had vaccines it’s entirely safe to go abroad’,” he said.
Prof Van-Tam also pointed out that some parts of Europe had “quite high levels of disease activity” compared to the UK and it was a question of “jumping into a pond with one shark in it or jumping into a pond with 100 sharks in it – it changes the likelihood that you’re going to get bitten.”
The EU move was a “fair ambition” and a “good aspiration” but “we have to move very cautiously”, he said.