GRANT Shapps has refused to say whether holiday hotspots will make it onto the UK's 'green list'.
The Transport Secretary said the Government can't afford to "take any chances" and will continue to take a "super cautious" approach to reopening Britain's borders.
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He told the Daily Mail it was "hard to know" if holidays to Spain, Italy, France and Greece would be possible before August – but stopped short of saying travellers should avoid booking summer getaways.
The Cabinet minister put it down to the perceived threat of new Covid variants abroad currently being too high to permit foreign travel.
His comments come just a day after the Government plunged thousands of Brits into chaos by announcing Portugal will move to the UK's 'amber list' next week.
The country's new classification means people are advised not to travel to the popular destination – and returning passengers must self-isolate for 10 days when they land from 4am Tuesday.
Holidaymakers scrambling for flights home from Portugal before the new quarantine requirements come into force are being charged hundreds of pounds.
A seat on a Ryanair flight from Lisbon to Manchester on Monday costs £339, whereas travel on the same route is available for just £75 on Wednesday.
British Airways is charging £348 for flights from Faro to London Heathrow on Sunday and Monday, but the price drops to £137 on Tuesday.
The requirement for travellers to take a coronavirus test in the three days before a flight to the UK departs is also creating difficulties for people.
Those currently in Portugal claim there is a two to three-day waiting list for tests because centres are "overloaded".
The high demand means some families could be forced to fork out anywhere between £240 and £1,200 to fly home – plus parents potentially taking 10 days off if they can't work from home.
Matt Hancock said on Friday the UK had to be "tough" on international travel rules to protect the progress of lockdown easing following Portugal's controversial removal from the green list.
Ministers have blamed fears over importing the so-called Nepal variant – a mutation that some think could have properties helping it to beat vaccines – for the decision.
But despite the hurdles facing those returning, Mr Hancock said the UK Government had been able to ease restrictions at home due to tight controls on travel rules.
His comments were made as the UK recorded its highest number of new confirmed coronavirus cases – 6,238 – since late March, according to official figures, with the Indian variant fuelling a fresh surge.
The Health Secretary, asked by reporters on Friday whether Brits were being asked to sacrifice a holiday abroad in exchange for greater freedoms at home, said: "Ultimately we are very cautious on international travel because we want to protect the success and the progress that we've made.
"We've opened up domestically and been able to do that without seeing an increase in the number of hospitalisations.
"And that is partly because we are tough on international travel.
"We have the green list there for countries where it is safe to go to but we've always said that we're willing to act, to take countries off that green list if we need to.
"It doesn't give me any pleasure that we've had to do that with Portugal but it is so important for protecting the vaccine rollout here at home."
It comes as:
- UK’s vaccine rollout to be stepped up in bid to save June 21 lockdown lift as ‘over 25’s to be offered jab next week’
- UK could be in the midst of THIRD WAVE, says Sturgeon
- Indian variant could be ‘100% more infectious than Kent strain’
- Covid R rate up AGAIN – and could be as high as 1.3 in hotspot
- Coronavirus cases rise 50% in a WEEK amid fears June 21 easing will be delayed
- France to welcome fully vaccinated Brits from June 9
- Brits dash to get home from Portugal to beat amber list quarantine
- ‘Nepal variant’ cases found in UK
Portugal is not the only country which moved on the traffic light rating system on Thursday.
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Sudan, and Trinidad and Tobago have also been placed on the red list.
Anyone coming back to Britain from a green list destination will need to have two Covid tests.
Amber countries require a mandatory 10-day quarantine at home as well as a Covid test on day two and eight.
Red countries will have to isolate for 10-days at a quarantine hotel, costing £1,750 per person.
Here is the full list of countries on the amber list and red list right now.
The next travel update is expected to take place in three weeks – on June 28 – although the UK hopes to end all domestic travel restrictions by June 21.
There is no guarantee more countries will be added to the list – and there is every chance some may be taken off.
Travel: What are your rights to a refund?
MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled. Here's what to do if you're affected.
Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.
You are entitled to a cash refund if it's cancelled your holiday but many have large delays processing cash or may offer vouchers instead.
If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.
Keep in mind travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCDO advice changed, otherwise you won't be covered.
If you don't have travel insurance or the excess on your insurance is so high it's not worth claiming, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees.
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