Travel chiefs call for scrapping of quarantine

28 May 2020, 05:14

Brexit
Brexit. Picture: PA

More than 70 industry figures say the emphasis should be switched from protection from Covid-19 to recovery.

Dozens of travel companies have called on the Home Secretary to scrap plans to impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine on people arriving in the UK due to the coronavirus.

Accusing the Government of being “woefully slow” in its support for the travel industry, more than 70 company heads have co-signed a letter to Priti Patel over the Government’s announcement last week of the new measure for arrivals, which starts on June 8.

Signatories have urged the Government to switch from protection mode in the face of the Covid-19 crisis to economic recovery.

“The very last thing the travel industry needs,” the letter says, “is a mandatory quarantine imposed on all arriving passengers which will deter foreign visitors from coming here, deter UK visitors from travelling abroad and, most likely, cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on British visitors, as France has already announced.

“Many people urged the government to impose quarantine regulations during the early phases of Covid-19. Instead, no action was taken and flights from infected countries were allowed to land, disgorging thousands of potentially affected passengers into the wider community.”

Coronavirus – Fri May 22, 2020
Home Secretary Priti Patel has been urged to scrap the impending 14-day quarantine on arrivals in the UK (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street handout/PA)

The letter continues: “Covid-19 is now under control and we commend the government for its handling of what was an extraordinary and unprecedented situation.

“However, the economic cost of the government’s action is yet to be seen, apart from the early indicators which paint a grim picture.”

The group pointed out their companies employed “thousands of people in the UK” and that the tourism and travel sector accounted for almost four million jobs, or 11% of the country’s work force.

Signatories include the heads of firms including the Ritz, Dorchester and Hyatt Regency London hotels, as well as tourism groups including Cookson Adventures and Original Travel.

Sir Frederick Barclay High Court hearing
The Ritz Hotel is among the travel and tourism industry entities calling for the quarantine to be scrapped (Anthony Devline/PA)

The letter said the Government had been “woefully slow to react and has procrastinated to the point of absurdity” in either providing support for, or ruling against, the concept of refund credit notes in the tourism and travel industry.

“Unlike many businesses who can scale down their workforce very rapidly, travel companies still need to employ staff when business stops, either to cancel or rearrange existing, often complex, bookings,” the letter says.

“The government has done its best to suppress and control the invidious viral contagion but it should not, and must not, exceed its mandate.

“The people of this country do not wish to be prevented from travelling. Quite simply it is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery before it is too late.”

George Morgan-Grenville, CEO of tour operator Red Savannah, commented: “Signatories to this letter are more used to competing ferociously but, on this issue, we are united.

“The quarantine plans are poorly thought-out, wholly detrimental to industry recovery and are more or less unworkable.”

Meanwhile the chief executive of British Airways’ owner has also criticised the quarantine plan, and says plans to help the airline industry recover have been “seriously set back” by politicians making negative comments about Britons travelling abroad this year.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and MPs, International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh said BA is not expected to return to 2019 levels of business until 2023/24 and the number of flights dropped by around 94% in April and May compared to the same period last year.

He also accused unions of trying to “intimidate” BA and delay redundancy consultations for the 12,000 jobs which are set to be cut at the airline.

In the letter, dated Wednesday, Mr Walsh wrote the 14-day quarantine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s comments on “big, lavish international holidays” being unlikely this summer, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’s remark about the riskiness of booking a break abroad “have all seriously set back recovery plans for our industry”.

By Press Association

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