A health minister has added to the confusion over coronavirus travel rules after saying going abroad is “dangerous” and “not for this year”.
Lord Bethell’s comments come after environment secretary George Eustice was slapped down by No.10 for suggesting people could travel to so-called “amber list” countries to visit friends.
Boris Johnson also later stressed that amber list countries were “not somewhere you should be going on holiday”.
But Bethell went much further than government rules, which allows people to travel to Portugal, Iceland and nine other countries without having to quarantine on their return, opening the door to summer holidays.
The peer’s comments are the latest example of chaotic messaging on foreign travel from the government, and are likely to fuel confusion following the lifting of the ban on foreign holidays on Monday.
He made his remarks amid continuing concern over the rise in cases of the potentially more transmissible variant that originated in India in parts of England.
Labour said the confusion had created “dangerous chaos” and called for “a pause on international travel”, while Johnson’s former aide Dominic Cummings has labelled the UK’s border policy a “joke”.
Going much further than the government position, Bethell said: “Travelling is dangerous. That is not news to us or to the people who get on those planes in the first place.
“We do ask people, particularly as we go into the summer, travelling is not for this year, please stay in this country.”
Earlier, Eustice struck a markedly different tone, suggesting people could travel to even amber list countries if they “feel the need” to visit family or friends.
But the prime minister’s official spokesperson said travel to amber list countries was only permitted for a very limited number of reasons.
“The position remains that people should not travel to amber list countries and that is to protect public health,” they said.
“We recognise that the restrictions that have been placed are difficult for the public.
“There may be essential reasons for which people still have to travel to amber list countries but of course strict quarantine and testing measures will apply.
“There are some limited reasons why it might be acceptable to travel – for work purposes, protecting essential services or compassionate reasons such as a funeral or care of a family member but otherwise people should not be travelling to these countries.”
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “The Conservatives’ border policies have unravelled into dangerous chaos within a matter of hours since international travel was opened up.
“There is a lack of strategy, which has meant the UK government, and their own ministers, are giving out conflicting and confused advice about whether people are allowed to travel, especially between ‘amber list’ countries.
“Labour has been clear that there should be a pause on international travel, to guard against further importing of dangerous strains, setting back hopes for ending restrictions.”