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Covid rise across Europe puts summer holidays in further doubt, says minister

‘Previous waves’ have hit the UK ‘a couple of weeks or three weeks later’, holidaymakers are warned

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 28 March 2021 17:04 BST
Covid rise across Europe puts summer holidays in further doubt, says minister

A cabinet minister has described the worsening Covid-19 situation on the continent as “very worrying”, casting further doubt on hopes for foreign holidays this summer.

Rising cases across the Channel have tended to hit the UK “a couple of weeks or three weeks later”, Oliver Dowden said – when asked if the go-ahead would be given.

The culture secretary – while insisting the lockdown-easing was currently on track – also warned the public that restrictions might have to stay in place beyond mid-summer.

“Of course they could if the situation deteriorates,” Mr Dowden said, ahead of the return of groups of up to six being allowed to meet outdoors in England on Monday.

He also said he hopes Wembley will be “as close as we can to be being full” for the final of the European Football Championship on 11 July.

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He also sought to calm Tory tensions over “vaccine certificates” to enter venues, insisting the move would not be “permanent” – but “might be a tool in the short run”.

Pressed to guarantee that another lockdown will not be needed in England, Mr Dowden said: “My whole experience of the past year, and I think everyone that’s watching’s experience of the past year, is you can’t rule things out.

“But we have every confidence we won’t have to have another lockdown because we’ve done this and it’s the last thing in the world we would want to do.”

The culture secretary said the UK could anticipate having a third vaccine in its armoury within weeks, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We expect that, in April, Moderna will come.”

Mr Dowden did not deny a report that the UK – having refused to allow the exports of any jabs so far – was poised to send 3.7 million to the Republic of Ireland, to help curb infections in the north. 

“Clearly, our first priority is ensuring we deliver vaccines in the United Kingdom,” he told Sky News.

“We clearly don’t currently have a surplus of vaccines. Should we get to the point where we have a surplus of vaccines, we’d make decisions on the allocation of that surplus.”

Meanwhile, a government adviser warned that people will have to self-isolate after coming into contact with Covid-19 for many years as the UK learns how to “live with this virus”.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of epidemiology, said the test-and-trace system is here to stay – as, probably, are some social distancing measures such as screens.

He also admitted to being “nervous about a full relaxation in June”, calling the idea of emerging from the lockdown “in one great bound” wide of the mark.

“I still suspect that looking forward – and I am talking now right through 2021 and into the years ahead – that we are still going to have to be alert to coronavirus,” Prof Woolhouse said.

“There are still going to be situations where we might need to use personal protective equipment, we might well need to do some kind of social distancing, put some kind of biosecurity measures in place.”

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