I have been preparing myself for the worst when it comes to the holidays we have booked for the summer and autumn of 2021. Last year, you may recall, we all contented ourselves with the likelihood, the near certainty among some folk, that 2021 would be better than 2020. Even I, the ultimate pessimist, bought into it, rearranging twice cancelled breaks in Spain and booking a proper holiday for Croatia this autumn. But there have been hints for some while that no one will be going abroad on holiday this year. Those hints are beginning to morph into factual statements.
The transport secretary Grant Shapps has been saying for months that it’s “far too early” to book a foreign holiday for 2021, something Boris Johnson repeated at a recent press conference. (This, by the way, is the same Johnson who announced exactly a year ago that he would “send the virus packing in 12 weeks” and that the summer of 2020 would be near normal.) But don’t listen to mere politicians, read the words of Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Spi-M modelling group, whatever that is, who says the prospect of foreign holidays this summer looks “extremely unlikely”. This is what he said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:
“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.”
My conclusion from what we have heard to date is that Johnson and his government have been softening us up for bad news. Don’t rule things out, but allow people to start having doubts. The apparent arrival of a third COVID wave in Europe is, quite possibly, going to end our holiday dreams for this year.
Add to the pot, the report published yesterday by Public Health England concluded that last year’s government’s decision to allow travel to and from Greece last summer could have had a significant impact on the spread of the virus. Greece , it transpires, was the largest source of imported infections between June and September, making up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% for Croatia and 14% for Spain. Sharp-eyed readers may have picked up on the fact that Croatia and Spain are our intended holiday destinations for this year. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
I doubt that the shambolic roll-out of COVID vaccines by European governments and the EU has helped matters much but any smug joy at British exceptionalism in this regard will surely be punctured by the likelihood that because Europe won’t be on our list of places to visit this year.
To my friends who have abandoned ideas of going abroad this year and have instead plumped for British holidays, then good for you. Unless we get caught up in a major third wave – and the vaccine roll out is no guarantee that won’t – those who have chosen to brave the British summer may get their well-deserved holidays. Those of us who gambled on guaranteed summer sun are more likely to be rebooking for 2022.
So let’s look forward to 2022. It’s bound to be better than this year, isn’t it?