SCOTLAND'S NHS chief has warned people not to book summer holidays abroad this year – dealing a blow to dreams of a beach getaway for millions.
Edinburgh's top medical adviser chief Professor Jason Leitch said nobody should expect to catch a plane abroad before the Autumn at the very earliest as cases are still so high.
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During an online Q&A session with civil servants he also warned Scotland will only come out of its harsh lockdown "very, very slowly" and needs to "learn what the post-Covid world looks like”.
He said: "I wouldn't book a non-refundable summer holiday if I were you.
"I might book a holiday in the autumn or Christmas time but even then I'm not entirely sure what the world will look like in terms of freedom of movement.
“We'll be in this version of lockdown for a little bit longer and then we'll go out gradually but it'll be slow – very very slow – because we've learned now twice how quickly it is to go up and how slow it is to come down.”
Nichola Sturgeon extended Scotland's lockdown yesterday – warning that the current level of restrictions will stay in place until at least the middle of February.
The UK Government is also set to review the lockdown in England at around the same time, but ministers are eyeing up March for the start of the relaxation of the rules.
A video of the session, which was uploaded to the Scottish government's intranet on Monday, was leaked to the Scotsman.
Prof Leitch's remarks will dampen the hopes of millions of Brits looking to escape this summer for week in the sun.
Many of the most popular hotspots for visitors from the UK, like Spain, Portugal, and Italy, are battling high case numbers and are struggling to roll out vaccines via the EU's sluggish scheme.
There is currently a ban on all non-essential travel between Britain and Europe, and most EU member states have strict testing and quarantine requirements for all arrivals.
Boris Johnson has also slammed shut the UK's borders as of Monday,meaning everyone entering the country including UK citizens must show proof of a negative test and self-isolate for 10 days.
They can get out after five if they can show another negative test.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who got caught out by the closure of Britain's travel corridor with Spain last year, has cautioned against booking summer holidays and urged people to follow advice to stay at home.
But ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he's "optimistic" about getting away and has already planned a trip to Italy in the first week of June.
And Mr Hancock has secured a break in Cornwall too.
Despite the gloomy warn holiday companies have reported a surge in bookings for holidays this year, as the country's successful roll out of the Covid vaccine has given people hope they'll soon be able to travel again.
Over-50s are said to be largely behind the increase, with Saga Holidays reporting bookings up by 16 per cent in the first two weeks of January compared to the beginning of December.
Chief executive Chris Simmonds said: “Many of our guests are hopeful that they will be able to travel again soon, with the vaccine providing them the optimism they need to start planning ahead.
“Of course, given we cater exclusively for people aged over 50, many of our customers are near the top of the queue for a vaccine, which is giving them the confidence to start thinking about travelling again, as well as returning to other parts of normal life.”
Tour operator Tui also reported a spike in older travellers booking holidays for later in the summer.
A spokesman said: “We’re seeing more interest in holidays from an age group that wasn’t coming through before, with the over-50s starting to book, we assume, on the back of the positive vaccine news.
“Since the end of last year, bookings from this group have accounted for 50% of all our web bookings, as customers long for a sunshine break later in summer, in particular in Greece, Turkey or the Balearics.”
Some EU countries including Greece and Portugal are pushing for the introduction of vaccine passports, which would allow people who have had the jab to travel without facing quarantine restrictions.
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