Vacation abroad as usual this summer “was never going to be the case,” Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said as he championed the government’s COVID travel policy.
Mr Buckland said “significant compromises” have had to be made to ensure that COVID cases are limited, with international travel being limited to “prevent the inadvertent spread of new worrying variants.”
It follows criticism from pilots of the “ridiculously cautious” travel restrictions which they say have made Britain’s aviation industry “the hardest hit in Europe”.
Speaking to Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Mr Buckland said ministers will continue to be “guided by the evidence” when it comes to travel abroad.
“Inevitably, in a situation as unprecedented and demanding as this one is going to have to make significant compromises and it is clear that normal vacations – or normal travel – were never going to be the case, given the increase. of particular variants, in particular the Delta variant ”, declared the secretary of justice.
“Throughout this crisis, we have tried to find the right balance between the natural need in some cases of international travel but also the imperative to ensure that we do everything possible at home to contain and prevent the accidental spread of new worrying variants.
“It’s an extremely difficult situation – I think of omelets and eggs, I’m afraid – but we are doing our best to maintain this balance with regular reviews of the regulations to allow maximum flexibility.”
He added: “We are not standing still on these issues and this will continue to be guided by the evidence we have.”
It comes as the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) accused ministers of appearing to “deliberately attack” the sector with the measures they imposed over the course of the pandemic.
The union calls on the government to “pull itself together” and open “American roads and European vacation destinations” which it has blocked without “any published evidence”.
BALPA members will join their colleagues in the aviation and travel industry in a national travel day of action on Wednesday, which aims to pressure the UK government to support a “safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period.” “.
The union’s analysis of official European air traffic data for June showed that the number of flights to and from the UK fell by three quarters compared to 2019.
The union said its study showed Gatwick and Manchester airports to be the most affected in Europe, closely followed by Heathrow and Stansted.
BALPA says figures from the World Trade Organization of the International Air Transport Association show that 860,000 jobs have been lost, or are on leave and are at risk of being, in air travel and tourism in the UK. United.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the union, said: “It’s official. The UK aviation industry is hardest hit in Europe, due to the UK government’s ridiculously cautious restrictions on international travel.
“Unhappy ministers appear to be deliberately attacking aviation and tormenting the public with their mixed messages during the summer recess.
“BALPA demands that the UK government pull itself together and open up US roads and European vacation destinations it has blocked without any published evidence.
“If the country is to better rebuild itself after the pandemic and forge new international ties with trade and travel partners, we will need a thriving aviation industry. There is no time to hide behind working groups and reviews. “
Wednesday’s “day of action” is designed to pressure the UK government to support a “safe return to international travel in time for the peak summer period”.
The aviation and travel industries want the government to increase the number of countries on the green list while maintaining a “strong red list to guard against variants.”
They also want the government to offer a tailor-made financial support package, including extended leave assistance, for those working in the sector who may need it.
Participants in the day of action are invited to take the message to their MP.
The pilots will also take part in the action at Heathrow, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester airports.
A government spokesperson said: “We recognize the difficult times facing all transportation sectors as a result of COVID-19, which is why we have put in place a whole-of-the-world support program. economy, comprising around £ 7 billion in support which is expected to benefit the air transport transport sector by September 2021.
“We continue to work with the aviation industry to help them get through this time and encourage them to take advantage of the unprecedented set of supports available.”