UK Holidays Could Be 'Up And Running' By Early July, Says Culture Secretary

Oliver Dowden says the government has a "very ambitious plan" to get tourism going in a little over a month.

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British people may be able to start taking holidays in the UK from the beginning of July, the culture secretary has suggested.

Oliver Dowden said he would “love” to get UK tourism “up and running by the beginning of July”.

Tourism was one of the few major sectors which was barely mentioned in the plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown published by Boris Johnson earlier this month.

But Dowden said there was a “plan” to get domestic holidays going by July amid major doubts over foreign trips as the government introduces a 14-day quarantine for all people who arrive in the UK from abroad.

He told the Downing Street briefing: “I would love to get the tourism sector up as quickly as we possibly can.

“We’ve set this very ambitious plan to try and get it up and running by the beginning of July.

“Clearly, we can only do it if it’s safe to do so because I think the worse thing for our tourism sector would be to start, then see the R [infection] rate rise out of control, see a second peak that overwhelms the NHS that [means] we then have to slam on the brakes again.”

There were also more grounds for optimism as NHS England national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said the number of coronavirus patients in hospital had fallen below 10,000 for the first time since March.

Dowden meanwhile appeared at odds with his cabinet colleague Robert Buckland, who said there may not be a “uniform approach” to get schools reopened on June 1. Teaching unions and some councils are at loggerheads with the government over the plan amid safety fears.

The culture secretary suggested he would prefer it if all English schools opened at the same time.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden on Wednesday
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden on Wednesday

“It is best, and the government has said this repeatedly, that we move as a whole nation, and that would include of course the whole of England in doing so,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dowden announced details of a taskforce being set up to help the arts, sports and digital sectors return amid social distancing restrictions.

It will involve former footballer Alex Scott, former BBC and ITV chair Lord Grade, English National Ballet artistic director Tamara Rojo, and tech entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox.

“Finding creative, crowd-free ways to navigate coronavirus is the biggest challenge for our recreation and leisure sectors right now,” Dowden said.

The culture secretary also said he hopes the BBC will show “similar flexibility” in delaying the removal of the free TV licence for some over-75s if the crisis continues into August, with many lonely elderly people finding the television is a “lifeline” during lockdown.

Dowden said: “I think the BBC made absolutely the right decision in saying that – in the middle of this coronavirus crisis when particularly older people are being asked to self-isolate and who are feeling lonely, often the TV is a lifeline for them – it wouldn’t be acceptable to take away that TV licence, which is why they rightly extended the proposal for removing it until the beginning of August.

“I very much hope that, if we are in a similar situation come the beginning of August, the BBC will show similar flexibility again.”


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