Fines of 5,000 pounds ($6,900) will be introduced for people from England who try to travel abroad before the end of June in a tightening of the country’s border controls.
Health minister Matt Hancock said the government’s original plan to review international travel in April and possibly permit it from May 17 still stood but the travel fines were included in legislation in case that would not be possible.
The news sent shares in travel stocks such as easyJet , British Airway-owner, Jet2 and TUI down between 3 and 4% in early trade on Tuesday.
In the UK, foreign holidays are currently banned.
“The earliest date by which we will allow for international travel … is the 17th May. That has not changed,” Hancock told Sky News.
The question of whether people can travel abroad without specific reasons such as work or education will still be addressed by the government’s travel review which is due to report on April 12, said Hancock.
But hopes that the government will give the green light to summer getaways from 17th May have faded in recent days due to warnings over rising COVID-19 infection levels in Europe.
Europe’s airlines and travel sector are now bracing for a second lost summer. Having already racked up billions in debt to survive a year of travel restrictions, they are facing further strain and some may need fresh funds.
Hancock said it was too early to say what the government would decide on holidays.
“The reason for that is that we are seeing this third wave rising in some parts of Europe and we’re also seeing new variants and it is very important that we protect the progress that we’ve been able to make here in the UK,” he said.
($1 = 0.7228 pounds) (Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by James Davey and Kate Holton)