HOLIDAYS abroad for Brits this summer are "highly unlikely", a Government scientist warned today.
Dr Mike Tildesley said that allowing holidaymakers to flock to foreign countries could "jeopardise" the UK's vaccination campaign and let new Covid variants in.
🦠 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates...Holidays abroad could be OFF this summer as a third wave sweeps EuropeCredit: Solarpix
But thousands of Brits have already booked breaks abroad after Boris Johnson earmarked May 17 as the earliest possible date people could travel internationally in the lockdown roadmap.
And Tui, the biggest tour operator in Britain, also reported a 500 per cent increase in bookings to sunshine resorts such as Greece, Spain and Turkey.
It comes as a deadly third wave is sweeping Europe, fuelled by the AstraZeneca vaccine fiasco.
The EU's shambolic jab rollout, combined with a sharp rise in infections, has seen several areas plunged back into lockdown in the past week.
Our rollout yesterday reached half of all adults here — some 26million people.
'SUN, SEA, SAND & SWAB'
And that puts Britain a huge distance ahead of the EU in the number of jabs already administered.
The travel industry is insisting overseas trips, not least the family breaks in July and August, can still go ahead if people are prepared for “sun, sea, sand and swab”.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has already warned “people shouldn’t be booking holidays”.
Dr Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert, added: "I think that international travel this summer is, for the average holidaymaker, sadly I think, extremely unlikely,
"I think we are running a real risk if we do start to have lots of people going overseas in July and August because of the potential for bringing more of these new variants back into the country.
"What is really dangerous is if we jeopardise our vaccination campaign by having these variants where the vaccines don't work as effectively spreading more rapidly."People enjoy the sunshine in BenidormCredit: Solarpix Quarantine-free holidays abroad in May are in doubt as Europe faces a Covid surgeCredit: Getty Paris has been plunged back into lockdown following a rise in casesCredit: Alamy
Dr Tildesley, associate professor of infectious disease modelling at Warwick University, said he is particularly concerned about variants with the E484K mutation: "That’s the one that’s in the South African strain that we’re worried about, that we feel make the vaccines less effective.
"That is a bit more prevalent in Europe so I think that’s a real concern, that if we do start seeing more of those cases coming in, then they start to evade the vaccine and that could cause more problems for us."
Mr Shapps is leading a new Global Travel Taskforce and has met with airlines and industry figures with a view to re-starting travel.
The group will consider testing methods and vaccine certification, as well as analysing virus trends, before it reports on April 12.
France has imposed lockdown measures lasting four weeks as it faces a third wave. Germany is considering an “emergency break” as infections rise and Italy and Spain are also facing a Covid setback.
Professor Andrew Hayward, of the Sage advisory group, said the wave across Europe could last “several months”, adding: “Obviously, it has implications on travels.”
HOLS ABROAD 'EXTREMELY UNLIKELY'
Labour has called for the immediate introduction of a “comprehensive hotel quarantine system”.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The renewed surges of Covid across Europe are worrying. We all want international travel to resume, but safety must come first.”
Professor Dirk Brockmann, a leading epidemiologist at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, told Times Radio that Brits should not be considering European holidays when lockdown restrictions ease.
He said: "International travel is a means of new variants to distribute themselves across the globe.
"That's how we do it. That's how it got everywhere in the world.
"As long as there's no massive immunity due to vaccination it is certainly not a factor that would help the situation especially when new variants are introduced and variants of concern in various regions in the world."Experts have urged Brits not to book foreign holidays to the EU this summerCredit: Getty - Contributor Government sources say holidays abroad in mid-May are "unrealistic"Credit: The Sun Europe’s rise in cases comes as countries continue to struggle with the vaccine rolloutCredit: Getty
Experts have urged Brits not to book holidays to the EU this summer amid fears that travel restrictions could persist beyond the spring - yet many have already snapped up flights and accommodation as lockdown takes its toll.
Current restrictions mean anyone travelling into the UK from a 'red-list' of countries must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
The European Commission has said it hopes to launch its EU-wide vaccine passport scheme on May 17.
Europe’s rise in cases comes as countries continue to struggle with the vaccine rollout, which has been hampered by political infighting, supply problems and growing skepticism over the AstraZeneca jab.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has urged the government to take a cautious approach amid the surge in infections on the continent - but have not called for a change to Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Britain saw a huge rise in cases in late December amid the spread of the Kent variant, which now makes up a significant number of infections in Europe.Europe's medicines regulator EMA has cleared the AstraZeneca jab for use Covid cases are rising in Germany Britain is way ahead in the vaccination rollout
A government source said that the rise in Europe was being watched closely, adding: “It’s a fact that when waves one and two hit Europe they hit us afterwards.”
A rise in cases in Europe has often prefigured an increase in the UK, scientists have noted.
In late August, both France and Spain saw a dramatic rise in infections - eventually prompting the reintroduction of restrictions in both countries.
This was followed by a sharp increase in cases in Britain in the Autumn, with the seven-day average of cases skyrocketing from 3,989 on September 21 to 13,970 on October 12.
Professor Neil Ferguson said “important decisions” are coming up as the Government eases the ban on international travel - and warned the UK must not let the South Africa variant become dominant.
He predicted between 5 to 10 per cent of cases in Europe are the South African variant.
'WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH VACCINES'
The South African strain is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original coronavirus variant, meaning it spreads faster and is less easily controlled by lockdown measures.
Officials in Europe have said the vaccine rollout cannot keep up with the rise in cases, particularly as infectious new strains emerge.
Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, said: "We have to be honest about the situation - in Europe we don’t have enough vaccines to stop a third wave through vaccinations alone."
EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, were criticised earlier this year for making baseless allegations about the efficacy of the jab in older patients, which has fuelled a wave of anti-vax sentiment.
The bloc also sparked a diplomatic row with Britain after threatening to block exports of the jab in January amid a furious spat with Astrazeneca over the delivery of millions of doses.Many EU countries temporarily suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab
She repeated her threat to block exports, prompting Pfizer to urge the EU to back down as vital ingredients from its jab are made in Britain whose politicians could retaliate.
And a string of EU leaders were forced into an embarrassing U-turn after banning the jab over unsubstantiated blood clot fears - against the recommendation of the World Health Organisation.
Professor Sir John Bell, from the Government’s vaccine taskforce, branded France “crackers” for providing the AZ jab only to those over 55 after lifting a ban on it.
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