Ministers refuse to rule out travel curbs on Europe as cases surge

Fears for holidays as ministers refuse to rule out re-imposing tough restrictions on travel from Europe as cases surge

  • Tory chair Oliver Dowden said vaccination is UK’s main defence against Covid
  • But refused to rule out bolstering border controls amid surging cases in Europe
  • Austria has imposed lockdown on unvaccinated and infections ticking up in EU  

Ministers today refused to rule out re-imposing tough travel restrictions on Europe amid fears over surging cases.

Tory chair Oliver Dowden insisted vaccinations are the UK’s main line of defence against the disease rather than border controls.

But he admitted that the situation is being kept ‘under review’ with alarm over a spike in cases on the continent.

The comments came after Austria imposed a draconian new lockdown on the unvaccinated, after a dramatic increase in infections.

Germany, France and Italy have also been seeing a significant uptick in their outbreaks.

Boris Johnson warned last week that ‘storm clouds’ are gathering over Europe, which appears to be at a different stage of the pandemic to the UK, 

Asked during a round of interviews this morning whether travel restrictions might need to be reintroduced, Mr Dowden said: ‘What is happening across the Channel is a constant reminder that this global pandemic hasn’t gone away.

‘This country’s approach to the pandemic is to make sure we have high levels of vaccine protection… That is the most appropriate approach for this country.’

Tory chair Oliver Dowden insisted vaccinations was the UK’s main line of defence against the disease rather than border controls

Germany, France and Italy have also been seeing a significant uptick in their outbreaks

Pushed on whether the government would repeat its mistake of being too slow to shut borders, the Conservative chief said: ‘Of course we keep these things under review all the time. We have move moved away from some of those restrictions.

‘We haven’t ruled it out and of course if the situation changes dramatically we would have to review that again.

‘But really the big thing we are doing in this country is to have the vaccine… ‘

Asked what could trigger a rethink, Mr Dowden said: ‘For example if we have a new variant emerging we’d have to consider what our borders would look like in that situation to protect us as we have done in the past.’

But he added: ‘I’m confident in the Government’s approach of putting our faith in the vaccine programme.’

Vaccinated travellers are currently allowed from the EU without having to quarantine, although they need to take tests on day two.   

Mr Johnson said last week that people should get their booster jabs to avert a resurgence in Britain.

‘I’ve got to be absolutely frank with people, we’ve been here before – and we remember what happens when a wave starts rolling in,’ he said.

‘If you can get it, it’s a great thing, the levels of protection it gives you are terrific and so over-50s, who we’re calling forward, should come and get it.’

But he added: ‘What I’m also saying is that if we don’t do it fast enough, we can see the potential risks to the state of the pandemic in what’s happening in other parts of Europe.’ 

Unvaccinated individuals older than 12 are now banned from leaving their homes in Austria, except for basic activities such as working, food shopping, going for a walk – or getting jabbed.

Authorities are concerned that hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of Covid patients.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, with only around 65 per cent of its 8.9million population fully vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the country has faced a worrying trend in infections. The country reported 11,552 new cases yesterday, while a week ago there were 8,554 new infections. 

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