Travel restrictions are a `trade-off’ Holidays as normal this summer `was never going to be the case’, says justice secretary

Foreign holidays as normal this summer “was never going to be the case”, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said as he defended the government’s COVID travel policy.

Mr Buckland said “significant trade-offs” have had to be made to ensure COVID cases are kept down, with international travel restricted to “prevent inadvertent spread of new variants of concern”.

It follows criticism by pilots of the “ludicrously cautious” travel restrictions which they say has caused the UK’s aviation industry to be “the hardest hit in Europe”.

Speaking to media, Mr Buckland said ministers will continue to be “guided by the evidence” when it comes to travelling abroad.

“Inevitably, in a situation as unprecedented and demanding as this, there are going to have to be significant trade-offs and it’s clear that holidays as normal – or travel as normal – was never going to be the case, bearing in mind the rise of particular variants, most notably the Delta variant,” the justice secretary said.

“Throughout this crisis we’ve tried to strike the right balance between the natural need in some cases for international travel but also the imperative of making sure that we do everything we can at home to contain and prevent inadvertent spread of new variants of concern.

“This is a hugely difficult situation – I think of omelettes and eggs, I’m afraid – but we are doing our very best to maintain that balance with regular reviews of the regulations to allow the maximum flexibility.”

He added: “We’re not standing still on these matters and that will continue 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 have imposed during the pandemic.

The union is calling on the government to “get its act together” and open “the US routes and European holiday travel destinations” it has blocked with “no published evidence”.

BALPA members will join colleagues from across the aviation and travel industry as part of a nationwide Travel Day of Action next week, which is designed to put pressure on 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 into and out of the UK has fallen by three-quarters compared with 2019.

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