“Make no mistake, allowing quarantine-free travel to a handful of countries or tiny islands and few, if any, of the UK’s major overseas markets would be a reboot in name only,” write they.
“Considering the improvement in the health situation, the availability of rapid tests and the role of vaccines, the possibility of safely designating a ‘green’ country is much greater and we believe that the number of countries on the Allow list can and should be raised on restart. “
The UK could face a challenge from EU countries waiving the requirement for fully vaccinated holidaymakers to have negative PCR tests and expecting ‘reciprocal’ deals from the Great -Brittany.
Excessive government caution threatens to waste our vaccine dividend
Anticipation is increasing as the long-awaited return of international travel rapidly approaches, write John Holland Kaye, Sean Doyle, Johan Lundgren, Steve Heapy and Charlie Cornish. An announcement on countries making the “green list” for travel without quarantine is expected from the PM in a few days. With overseas travel illegal for months – still shocking to think – and severely restricted for over a year, many people are in desperate need of reuniting with family and friends abroad, taking a well-earned vacation. and delayed or reconnect with foreign companies. on whom millions of British livelihoods depend.
However, as we approach this important milestone, there remains a very real danger that an overabundance of caution on the part of politicians will leave the country stuck on the trail. Instead of profiting from the success of the vaccination program, the government risks shutting the UK off to the rest of the world. We want to be able to support a safe reopening, but if we are not prepared to accept a risk, travel will never restart and we will not be able to support travel and tourism businesses devastated by the pandemic. , and overload the UK. economic recovery.
On Monday, the EU – not known for its rash vaccine decisions and the precautionary principle – said those with proof of vaccination should be able to travel without restrictions across the block, given the effectiveness of the vaccines.
The UK vaccine rollout has been a historic success and puts us in a very different place from winter. It is increasingly clear that jabs protect the NHS, dramatically reducing the risk of infection and the transmissibility of the virus itself. A study by Public Health England (PHE) has shown that even a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine cuts home transmission by up to half, in addition to significantly reducing the risk of infection and protecting against serious illness. However, contrary to the EU position, having both doses of a vaccine (over 15 million people in the UK fall into this category) will not change your testing and even implementation requirements. quarantine on return to UK an illogical position and one that needs to be resolved quickly.
Cost of testing a huge obstacle
The UK has the best sequencing capabilities in the world and should work with other countries to more effectively track variants of concern without the need for costly testing requirements on less risky routes. As it stands, travel, even from green countries, will still require arrivals to the UK to pass a ‘gold standard’ PCR test, which until recently cost more than double the European average. at over £ 100 each, a huge barrier to travel for most people and even with government assurances that testing would be affordable.
Although it has levers, the government has yet to deliver on its promise to lower prices and more work needs to be done urgently, removing the burden of VAT on what is a health test, a good starting point.
Along with the cost, it looks like the initial list of “green” countries will be limited from May 17, rather than the more comprehensive list that science and data would allow. Make no mistake, allowing non-quarantine travel to just a handful of countries or small islands and few, if any, of the UK’s major overseas markets would be a name-only reboot. Given the improved health situation, the availability of rapid tests and the role of vaccines, the possibilities of safely designating a “green” country are much greater, and we believe that the number of countries on the list is the list can and should be raised on restart.
Ministers must be transparent about travel restrictions
Public health comes first, and the UK travel industry has always supported the health measures that have been put in place at the border to protect the UK during the pandemic, despite tens of thousands of job losses which unfortunately resulted. But an overly cautious approach also has consequences, for our freedoms, for livelihoods and for the economy. The government has never revealed any of its analyzes on the risk it claims to be posed by international travel and needs to be open and transparent in explaining how it justifies its travel restrictions.
The oft-cited risk of variants entering the UK is real and requires vigilance. However, no one is saying that next May 17th air travel will be free and we have to keep in mind that for much of the rest of the world the main variant of concern is our own locally grown Kent. variety. Under the traffic light system, travel will and should remain very limited from countries where Covid levels are very high or where the variants present a real risk. Orange countries will again face a number of additional controls and precautions. However, where Covid levels are low, traveling abroad is no more risky than traveling from London to Birmingham or Belfast, or anywhere else in the UK.
The announcement that international travel can begin will be a real turning point and hopefully the start of a sustained recovery towards something more normal. Our message to the government is not to waste the opportunity offered by the deployment of the vaccine to make Britain fly again.
John Holland Kaye is CEO of Heathrow, Sean Doyle is CEO of BA, Johan Lundgren is CEO of easyJet, Steve Heapy is CEO of Jet2 and Charlie Cornish is CEO of Manchester Airports Group