Slumped on the couch after one other day of house education, many households can have longingly eyed adverts for getaways: solar, sandy seashores and glittering swimming pools, a much-needed reward after a 12 months within the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic.
However ministers have gotten more and more involved they might need to ask the British public to sacrifice their hopes of a break overseas this summer season. On Thursday, Priti Patel grew to become the newest cupboard minister to say it was too quickly to e-book an abroad break; Matt Hancock has already introduced he’s going to Cornwall.
Officers are anxiously awaiting the outcomes of research on whether or not new Covid variants are proof against the present vaccines, hundreds of thousands of doses of that are being distributed throughout the UK, however they aren’t anticipated for a number of weeks.

Robust UK border measures that got here into impact this week had been initially deliberate to final a fortnight, however stricter enforcement is already into account, together with obliging arrivals to pay to remain in “quarantine resorts” whereas they self-isolate.
There are rising fears in authorities that the prime minister, so reluctant to “cancel Christmas”, could have to inform the general public to desert hopes of a dose of international sunshine this summer season. A number of authorities sources instructed the Guardian they anticipated border measures must be tightened, and ministers are even discussing a complete journey ban.
A Division of Well being and Social Care supply stated: “Ought to issues proceed as we hope – which is instances come down due to lockdown, the rollout of the vaccine continues at tempo and begins to have an effect – the deal with borders would enhance, and rightly.

“Because the instances come down within the UK, it’s going to develop into increasingly more vital to ensure that we’re not introducing any variants that might be, if not immune, extra resistant [to the vaccines]. There’s nothing to say they’d be in the mean time. If that proof involves gentle, then clearly that’s when borders would develop into the actual focus.”
Hancock, the well being secretary, has careworn that reformulating the vaccines to deal with a resistant variant needs to be comparatively simple – he has in contrast it to changing the wing mirrors on a Vary Rover – however the brand new jabs would nonetheless have to be authorized by the medicines regulator, manufactured and delivered to hundreds of thousands of individuals. “With these new variants, we do have to be extraordinarily cautious,” a No 10 supply stated.
In the meantime, journey from the UK to a string of different nations stays banned, as scientists assess the dangers of the Kent variant that unfold quickly from south-east England. The federal government’s method to the UK’s borders is in sharp distinction to the primary wave of the pandemic, when banning worldwide journey appeared unthinkably draconian to Boris Johnson.

Johnson with England’s chief medical Officer, Chris Whitty (left), and his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, at a press convention on 19 March. {Photograph}: Leon Neal/AFP by way of Getty Photos
Robust preliminary restrictions on arrivals from Wuhan, 273 of whom who had been despatched into enforced quarantine, gave method to a free-for-all from 13 March, when scientific recommendation advised the virus was already being transmitted domestically. Quarantine necessities weren’t launched till 9 June.
Many consultants inside and out of doors authorities now consider that not imposing border restrictions earlier was a mistake – maybe some of the critical errors of final 12 months. Michael Head, a senior analysis fellow on world well being on the College of Southampton, described the failure to introduce border curbs early on as “very a lot a missed alternative”.
“Covid-19 transmission is pushed by super-spreading occasions, that is the place dispersion is vital. A small variety of folks will contribute to a lot of the transmission. Thus, even when the precise numbers of instances coming from worldwide journey are low, these can seed new outbreaks and contribute to onward transmission across the group,” he stated.
The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chair of the house workplace choose committee, has persistently pressed the federal government over the shortage of border controls. “If we had our time again once more, and had been excited about January, February and the measures that might have been introduced in and would have made a distinction in serving to to restrict the size of the pandemic within the first wave, border measures clearly ought to have been a part of coping with the disaster,” she stated.
UK instances graph
“Different nations, together with New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, they put in very robust quarantine preparations proper from the very starting, and the UK didn’t do any of these issues. After which it inexplicably lifted [the guidance it had eventually put in place] on 13 March.”
“There was then no testing, no self-isolation,” she added. “What truly occurred throughout that interval earlier than lockdown was that 1 million folks got here again into the nation with no checks. Different nations had been doing the alternative. In all places else was bringing in stronger and stronger restrictions on the border, and the UK was eradicating restrictions on the border. The primary wave was considerably worse, and developed sooner, because of us not having these.”
Specialists instructed the house affairs choose committee, which revealed a report on border controls in August, something from 1,000 to 10,000 Covid instances could have been imported into the UK throughout this era.
Patel staked her declare to be on the fitting facet of historical past this week. In feedback that subsequently leaked, the house secretary instructed the Conservative Pals of India group: “On ‘ought to we’ve closed our borders earlier?’ the reply is sure, I used to be an advocate [of] closing them final March.”

Priti Patel speaks throughout a media briefing on the pandemic on Thursday. {Photograph}: WPA/Getty Photos
Individuals with data of the discussions final 12 months corroborated Patel’s account – however claimed she had not pressed the purpose. “Priti was up for it. I’m unsure it was due to a strongly held epidemiological view or simply as a result of she heard ‘shut the borders’ and preferred the sound of it,” one senior Tory commented drily. One other stated: “She didn’t actually push it.”
The prime minister’s former chief aide Dominic Cummings was additionally in favour of a extra sturdy border coverage, in response to one supply – with Johnson, in addition to transport secretary, Grant Shapps, extra sceptical about the advantages. Others recall “pushback” from Dominic Raab’s International Workplace.
Authorities insiders level out that their scientific advisers weren’t urgent for tighter controls on arrivals both. Printed minutes present the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee of consultants estimated on 3 February that lowering imported infections by 50% would possibly solely delay the onset of the pandemic within the UK by about 5 days – too quick a interval to make a distinction to the under-pressure NHS, they concluded.
By March, they believed 1000’s of instances had already arrived within the UK, and it was too late for motion to be efficient. The chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, stated at a Downing Avenue press convention on 13 March, as border controls had been lifted, that there have been already most likely “between 5,000 and 10,000 folks contaminated”. Prof John Edmunds, of Sage, agrees with that, saying: “March was already manner too late.”

On the time, ministers had been additionally involved in regards to the influence of halting flights on freight and commerce. When quarantine measures had been finally launched in June, freight drivers had been excluded. Within the run-up to the restrictions being imposed, ministers had been additionally topic to intensive lobbying from a “quash quarantine” marketing campaign, involving journey firms and backbench Conservative MPs alarmed in regards to the financial prices of the measure.
“It’s not like simply closing the door; it’s like closing the door and likewise refusing all parcels and deliveries. It has implications on meals safety, freight, all types of issues, so it’s not one thing you wish to do calmly,” stated one witness to final 12 months’s agonising decision-making. However they added: “In the event you knew now what you knew then, you’ll have closed the borders.”
One harrowing 12 months on, because the vaccine programme gathers pace however the UK has already mourned 100,000 Covid deaths, ministers seem decided to not make the identical errors once more – and which will imply sunshine breaks overseas must wait.