Summer holidays will start in England on 4 July as Boris Johnson eases lockdown rules

Locked down families have been put on notice to get their bags packed as Boris Johnson announced that their summer holidays will begin less than two weeks from today. The Prime Minister's move to cut the two-metre rule to "one metre-plus" and allow visitors to go away overnight in England from Saturday 4 July has come as a "huge relief" to tourism businesses.

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Tens of thousands of cash-starved hotels and B&Bs are now preparing to fling open their doors and the move has been hailed by the Caravan and Motorhome Club as "super Saturday" as it prepares to welcome back "eager" members to 114 campsites.

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It also means that people will be able to visit second homes.

Summer getaways

A police officer patrols along the beach in Bournemouth, Dorset, earlier this month (Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA)

UK Hospitality, which represents 700 firms, had urged Mr Johnson to take action after warning their recovery from Covid-19 will be "lengthy and painful". Its chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement as a "real boon" for the industry and for domestic holidaymakers.

But she added: "We need financial help from the Government, otherwise some of these businesses are going to go under right at the point they are allowed to open."

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Joss Croft, chief executive of the UKinbound trade association, said: "The announcement will come as huge relief to businesses who have earned very little revenue since the start of March." But he said the Government "needs to recognise" that many businesses including those relying on international visitors will have "gone through the equivalent of three winters" and will need "further financial support if they are to survive". Mr Johnson said that, provided no more than two households stay together, people will be free to stay overnight in accommodation including hotels and B&Bs, as well as campsites "as long as shared facilities are kept clean.

He said: "More leisure facilities and tourist attractions will reopen if they can do so safely."

Second home owners may not get a warm reception

People with second homes will soon be able to use them again for the first time since the lockdown began - but they may not be afforded a warm welcome when they arrive. Until the rules change on 4 July, most people are banned from staying overnight anywhere other than the place they are normally living. The Covid-19 lockdown has sparked tensions in areas with a high proportion of second homes amid claims owners using them as hideaways were spreading the virus.

The celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay hit back at neighbours after being criticised for heading to his home in Cornwall, and when another wrote a letter in The Times about "our guilty bliss staying in our second home" in Cornwall last month, locals lashed out at the anonymous author's "entitled arrogance". There were also claims from South Lakes MP Tim Farron that some owners were exploiting a loophole to claim GBP10,000 from a support fund by "pretending" their home was a holiday let.A large number of holiday sites, B&Bs, and other holiday homes including lets and apartments, have been used to house key workers socially distancing from their families during the coronavirus pandemic. There have also been calls for action to protect rural communities from the "unsustainable" impact of second homes, with Scottish Green Members of the Scottish Parliament saying the pandemic has laid bare an economic imbalance in some areas.

The virus has only intensified long-standing arguments about holiday home buyers pricing young families out of local housing markets and putting pressure on services in rural communities.

Getting holidays restarted

Scientists have said mitigation measures including increased hygiene will be critical in keeping people safe. The RAC has said there could be "some large spikes" in weekend leisure travel on major routes to the coasts, lakes and mountains after 4 July and hotels and camping sites will book up quickly. But it said the prospect of big "getaway" days are unlikely as people stagger their holidays over the summer.

Cumbria Tourism said the announcement will "bring incredible relief" to hundreds of businesses and thousands of tourism workers. At the height of the lockdown, police in the region were forced to turn away motorists from as far away as London while urging people to "take a look at your conscience" before travelling. Jim Walker, Cumbria Tourism's chairman, said firms had lost close to GBP2bn and hundreds of jobs and thousands more were still at risk.

He said: "Our evidence to government was clear that the difference between 2m and 1m was the difference between operating viably and not and today's relaxation announcement will make a significant difference to business viability and save local jobs."

'Sending people on holiday is not like turning on the tap'

VisitEngland director Patricia Yates said the move was "great news" and meant firms could make plans to "welcome back visitors in time to save as much of the peak summer season as possible". A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said the announcement was a "step in the right direction". But she said: "The travel sector remains in a perilous state.

We need a more comprehensive road map as soon as possible that includes timeframes for relaxing international travel restrictions.

"The process of sending people on holiday is not like turning on a tap."

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