Hancock accused of 'killing British travel abroad' over holidays veto

Hancock and Gove ‘killed British travel abroad’: Ministers are accused of over-ruling scientists by removing Portugal from ‘green list’ with a few days’ notice and refusing to add ‘safe’ Malta

Matt Hancock was today accused of ‘killing British travel abroad’ amid a furious Cabinet row over foreign holidays. 

The Health Secretary and fellow senior minister Michael Gove have been blamed for the decision last week to place Portugal on the amber list as just a few days’ notice.

The move last Thursday, which comes into effect on Tuesday, forced thousands of Britons into a last minute scramble to get home without having to quarantine.

They are said to have over-ruled more hawkish elements int he Cabinet, led by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, who wanted Portugal put on a ‘watchlist’ that would have given holiday makers more time.

They have also been accused of over-ruling scientific advise from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) clearing Malta to be added to the green list of quarantine-free travel destinations.

The Mediterranean island has one of the lowest Covid rates in Europe and has been open to UK travellers since June 1.

A ministerial source told the Sunday Times there had been a ‘heated’ meeting earlier this week.

‘Ministers were bounced into this at the last minute. Hancock held on to the data until the last minute,’ they said.

Mr Hancock defended himself today, telling Sky that ‘my first duty is to protect the UK population and that does include trying to minimise transmission’ from abroad, though he was not specifically asked about holidays.

And a Whitehall source told MailOnline that the decision on Portugal and Malta was supported by a majority of Cabinet ministers and all the devolved administrations.  

The Health Secretary and fellow senior minister Michael Gove have been blamed for the decision last week to place Portugal on the amber list as just a few days’ notice.

 The move last Thursday, which comes into effect on Tuesday, forced thousands of Britons into a last minute scramble to get home without having to quarantine.

They have also been accused of over-ruling scientific advise from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) clearing Malta to be added to the green list of quarantine-free travel destinations.

Gove and Hancock are said to have over-ruled more hawkish elements in the Cabinet, led by Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, who wanted Portugal put on a ‘watchlist’ that would have given holiday makers more time.

‘JBC said Portugal was borderline and some ministers wanted a watchlist of green countries that might go amber.

‘There were clear reasons to put Malta on the green list but the formal recommendation from the Department of Health was that it should not happen.

‘Hancock doesn’t think anyone should be going abroad on holiday this year. He is killing British travel abroad. If we are going to follow scientific advice to stop people travelling we should be following scientific advice if they say people can travel.’ 

It came as a leading epidemiologist said that Portugal was probably safer than some parts of England. 

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told Times Radio: ‘If you travel from London to Manchester at the moment, it’s a much greater risk than going to Portugal, Spain, Italy, France. 

‘Are we protecting the Portuguese from problems? Is it that way around? Because otherwise I don’t really get it. We can’t stop variants coming into this country unless we completely lock down the country. 

‘So I think we just ought to start settling down and dealing with our own outbreaks and not try to have this haphazard travel policy which is causing a lot of fear and confusion.’

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the Government’s traffic light rating system for travel is ‘confusing’ and ‘dangerous’.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, she said: ‘I think we’ve got a real, real problem with the travel system that the Government has put in place.

‘We’ve currently got countries on the amber list which the Government is basically urging people not to go to but allowing people to go to with very lax quarantine requirements when they come back.

‘We think the amber list should be scrapped. We think it’s pointless. We think it’s confusing and that confusion is actually dangerous at the moment.

‘It risks unravelling all of the progress that we’ve made.’

Source: Read Full Article