CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden said holidays within the UK could return as early as the beginning of July.

People all over the country have had their plans for the summer scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Caravans parks and hotels remain closed with no certainty of when they will be able to welcome guests.

But Mr Dowden told the Downing Street briefing on Wednesday they could be open in six weeks’ time.

Hew said: "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 rate rise out of control, see a second peak that overwhelms the NHS that we then have to slam on the brakes again.

"But, believe me, when we get to the point when we can have British tourism back, perhaps apart from the Prime Minister you won't get a bigger champion of the great British break than me."

Mr Dowden also said he hoped some Premier League games would be shown on free-to-air television if the football season resumes.

Guidance will be issued later this week about a return to contact training for elite sports and Mr Dowden has earmarked mid-June as a possible date for the return of the Premier League behind closed doors.

He said that while existing broadcast rights had to be respected, there was the possibility of flexibility because the previously protected Saturday afternoon kick-offs could now be televised as there was no possibility of them keeping spectators away from stadiums.

He said: “I think that creates an opportunity for us to be able to get some sport, some Premier League free-to-air.

"Those discussions are ongoing."

Mr Dowden added: "I hope we can sort this out and I also hope then we can get some more money going into the sport of football. I think we can find ourselves in a win-win situation."

NHS England's national medical director Stephen Powis warned people against using commercially available antibody tests which had not been approved by Public Health England.

He told the Downing Street press conference: "I would caution against using any tests that might be made available without knowing quite how good those tests are.

"Public Health England is evaluating them for the NHS, I would caution people against being tempted to have those tests."

He added that while an antibody test could show whether someone has had coronavirus, it was not clear whether that resulted in immunity.

Asked how long it would be before antibody tests were available on the NHS, he said: "We are at an early phase of these tests and where we will use them first is in health and probably social care settings, for patients but also for staff in those settings where it is most important that we understand about the infection."

Earlier Mr Dowden said 35,704 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Tuesday, up by 363 from 35,341 the day before.

In the 24-hour period up to 9am on Wednesday, 177,216 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 2,472 positive results.

Overall a total of 2,962,227 tests have been carried out, and 248,293 cases have been confirmed positive.

He set out details of the taskforce being set up to help the arts, sports and digital sectors respond to the crisis.

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

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

Mr Dowden said: "Normal life, as we have known it, is still clearly a long way off and the path to get there is a narrow one.

"But these things will return, when it's safe for them to do so, and thanks to the same drive and creativity that makes a great performance or a great piece of art.

"I really think that when they do, and when we have overcome this crisis together, we will appreciate them that much more."