Hotel quarantine rules: ‘another death knell’ for UK tourism and aviation
Dismayed industry leaders urge government to provide roadmap for recovery
Newly announced UK border restrictions have been met with dismay by leaders of the nation’s struggling aviation and tourism industries.
Amid growing calls for a crackdown as the UK death toll from Covid-19 passed 100,000, Boris Johnson told the Commons yesterday that all new arrivals from 30 “red list” countries would be required to quarantine for ten days in “government provided accommodation”, such as hotels, at their own expense.
The measures are aimed at preventing mutant strains of the coronavirus from reaching the UK, and mark a further tightening of restrictions after the government suspended so-called travel corridors on 18 January. Direct flights from high-risk countries including South Africa, Portugal and nations in South America were also banned earlier this month.
The prime minister told MPs yesterday that “in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home” from red list countries “who cannot be refused entry” will be met at the airport and “transported directly into quarantine”.
Home Secretary Priti Patel later said that more details of the “managed isolation process” will be announced by the Department for Health and Social Care next week.
Quarantine plans ‘too limited’
Current lockdown rules ban Britons from travelling abroad for leisure purposes. In a warning to would-be rule breakers, Johnson yesterday warned that the government will “enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel”. Patel added that journeys must be “absolutely essential”.
The UK’s new restrictions had been widely anticipated in recent weeks, amid mounting pressure for the government to take tougher action. Critics have pointed to the examples of countries including New Zealand and Australia that have already introduced hotel quarantine as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
And some are calling for Downing Street to go even further. Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the newly announced hotel quarantine plans were “too limited” and “leaves huge gaps in our defences against emerging strains”.
Meanwhile, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford told Johnson that “both the Scottish and Welsh governments want to go further on quarantine measures than what his UK government is proposing”, Sky News reports.
The PM must “stop his half measures” and introduce “stricter enforcement on international travel”, Blackford said.
‘Urgent response’ needed
The aviation and tourism industries have been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, with airlines, international rail services and accommodation providers hit hard by the huge drop in passenger numbers and travellers. Lockdown restrictions have also forced the closure of visitor attractions, restaurants and hotels.
Leaders in travel and aviation have accused ministers of “laying blow after blow” on the industry and are demanding an “urgent response” from the government to requests for financial aid and a pathway to relax border restrictions, says trade magazine Travel Weekly.
Business Travel Association chief executive Clive Wratten told the site that the hotel quarantine plans are “another death knell” for the sector.
“Public safety must come first, but we question the timing of this announcement and the lack of investment in a long-term strategy to get the UK travelling again,” he said. “Placing the burden of proof for the validity of travel on international carriers is an untenable situation for companies and staff already at breaking point.
“The government must offer targeted financial support to our industry beyond April.”
Echoing Wratten’s warning, Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said the government “keeps laying blow after blow on an industry already reeling from the worst year in aviation history”.
#SaveTravel: roadmap to recovery
Travel trade magazine TTG has announced the launch of a new #SaveTravel campaign that urges the government to work with the industry to “protect jobs and provide dedicated financial support for individuals and businesses affected by the Covid crisis”.
The #SaveTravel manifesto calls on No. 10 to publish a roadmap out of the crisis and for ministers to give more regular updates to the industry, re-establish a travel taskforce, and commit to dedicated financial support for the travel industry.
The introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine for some arrivals “all but marks the industry hitting rock bottom”, writes TTG’s James Chapple.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday that it was still “far too early” for travellers to book summer holidays - a move that will further “crush confidence” in the sector, says Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership.
Lo Bue-Said asks: “Why do members of the government feel it is their place to further crush confidence? What government continually fails to acknowledge is the number of jobs sustained by the outbound travel industry and that being an island nation, travel is not just for a holiday.
“We need government to support the industry, extend furlough until the autumn, stop making ill-informed off the cuff comments, and allow the British public to make their own judgement on future plans to travel later this year, once it’s safe to do so.”
In a move that could offer another lifeline to the ailing sector, Tony Blair is now calling on Johnson to lead the drive for a global vaccine passport, The Telegraph reports. The former PM says the current border restrictions are “disjointed”, and has urged the UK to put a global “travel pass” on the G7 agenda.