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Industry questions quarantine measures

Associations and airlines criticise timing of announcement as one MP describes measures as “slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

The travel industry and opposition and back-bench MPs have questioned the logic of the government’s proposed 14-day quarantine for travellers.

The Home Office announced the plans as European neighbours, many of which have had quarantine measures in place since March and April, began to ease restrictions.

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds urged the government to publish scientific advice, saying there was concern the plan was a “fudge to try to spare the government embarrassment for failing to grip this issue at the right time”.

Liam Fox, the Conservative MP and former international trade secretary said he could “simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy” He added: “If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak?”

Another Conservative MP described the policy as “slamming the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

In a letter to home secretary Priti Patel, Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive, The Advantage Travel Partnership describe the policy as being “hugely damaging to both the UK inbound and outbound travel sector.”

“The prospect of many British citizens having to self-quarantine after a holiday or a business travel trip will severely deter those wishing to travel. While we understand and appreciate the need for safety and establishing who has the virus and who is capable of spreading it, we believe that a robust track and trace system alongside measures identified by IATA through their multi layered restart approach would be much more effective for government strategy and less damaging to the UK travel industry.”

Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), said: “Once again, we call on the UK Government to remove the 14-day quarantine as soon as possible. Quarantines should not be necessary if appropriate and effective containment measures are in place at departure and arrival points.

The WTTC said that the pandemic had led to more than 1.2 million travel and tourism jobs being at risk in the UK, with substantial losses already. It added that, the UK, as the sixth largest economy in the world, and the third largest in Europe in terms of the travel and tourism, it is critical the sector drives the economic recovery, as its contributes nine per cent of UK GDP and is responsible for 11 per cent of total UK employment.

A spokesperson for ABTA said: “Protecting public health is a priority and it’s vital to base decisions about travel on the best health and scientific advice. No-one should be in any doubt, however, that a 14-day quarantine period for all travellers returning to the UK will unavoidably put many people off travelling abroad or visiting the UK, and will therefore have a hugely damaging impact on the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries – which support hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country and have already been severely affected by the pandemic.

“It’s therefore critical that the Government regularly reviews this policy – including assessing its effectiveness and how it works with other control measures. We’d also continue to urge the Government to keep any measures proportionate, targeted and limited only to what is necessary and to seek a coordinated approach with destinations in the EU and beyond. 

“In addition, as we enter the recovery phase it is critically important that both businesses and travellers are given clear and consistent guidance and messaging in relation to travel and tourism. This will be vital to support consumer confidence in future travel plans.”

Patel said: “Protecting the public’s health and avoiding a second peak that overwhelms the NHS will always be our top priority. As we get the virus under control here, we must manage the risk of cases being imported from abroad. We owe it to the thousands who’ve lost their lives.”

“These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us safe,” she said. “We will take a number of factors into account within the reviews to satisfy that the risk of imported cases is low.”