The CEO of Airlines UK and travel and tourism bosses have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an “urgent roadmap” out of stricter quarantine measures for arrivals announced yesterday.
Home Secretary Priti Patel announced further action for outbound and inbound passengers to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission. The measures were announced to protect the UK’s vaccination programme and reduce the risk of a new variant of the virus being transmitted from someone coming into the UK.
Those wishing to travel out of the UK will have to declare their reason for travel and anyone who does not have a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home and could face a fine as the reason for travel will be checked.
There will also be an increased police presence at ports and airports, fining those in breach of the stay at home regulations.
Mandatory hotel isolation for arrivals from government’s “Red List”
Those arriving from countries from the government’s Red List of 30 countries where international travel bans have been imposed and who cannot be refused entry will be taken straight to isolation hotels where they will be required to isolate for 10 days. The Department of Health will be providing further details on the scheme as the week progresses. The list includes all of South America, southern Africa and Portugal.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rules would be applied “without exception” and would mean British nationals and those with residency rights who arrive from high-risk countries would face mandatory quarantine in a hotel at their own expense for up to 10 days. The measures have been launched to improve compliance with self-isolation rules.
But industry leaders – including CEO of Airlines UK Tim Alderslade, CEO of British Airways Sean Doyle, CEO of Virgin Atlantic Shai Weiss, CEO of easyJet Johan Lundgren plus the CEOs of TUI Group, Loganair, Jet2.com, Ukinbound, Titan Airways, AirTanker and CargoLogicAir – have repeated their calls for the government to announce a package of support measures for UK aviation recognising “the urgency and scale of the danger now facing our sector.”
The letter said the industry had “consistently and fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic.” It added that the UK already had some of the toughest border restrictions on international arrivals anywhere in the world with flights already banned from several high-risk countries, pre-departure controls which required anyone arriving in the UK to have already tested negative for COVID-19 and all passengers subject to an additional period of quarantine, with an optional second release test after five days.
“No compelling scientific evidence”
The letter added that the government’s policies should be based on evidence. It read: “We have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced. What is clear is the dramatic impact that restrictions – both current and should hotel quarantine be introduced – will continue to have both on UK airlines, and the wider UK economy. In the short term, an effective border closure risks impacting vital freight and PPE supplies, and jeopardising tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses up and down the country that depend on aviation.”
“Global Britain aspirations” cannot be achieved without airlines and airports
It continued “It is essential that a clear set of conditions are agreed allowing for the easing of all travel restrictions. This roadmap is vital for retaining consumer confidence and securing the future of UK aviation as we approach the critical summer trading period. The Government cannot achieve its Global Britain aspirations without airlines and airports, whose existence as private enterprises cannot be taken for granted. As things stand, aviation is in danger of being one of the first sectors to close, and the last to re-open.”
The letter warned that UK airlines could not survive a second summer season without meaningful revenue, or additional support.
“This is not a matter of ‘only’ sacrificing summer holidays and seeing family members – critical as they are,” said the letter. “More than 75 per cent of arrivals to the UK come by air. As an island nation, the UK has benefited disproportionately from a thriving aviation sector, facilitating inbound tourism, foreign direct investment and trade – some 40 per cent of the UK’s trade by value outside the EU, which is mostly flown aboard passenger aircraft.”
1.56 million jobs at risk
The airline heads said the 1.56 million jobs and a contribution of £88.8 billion of gross value to our economy and 4.5 per cent of UK GDP generated by the aviation and tourism industries was “now at immediate risk”.
It added that each day the UK was isolated from the world caused “untold economic damage, both to the UK’s essential aviation infrastructure – its airlines, airports and ground handers – but also to those businesses that depend on the UK’s connectivity within a global economy.”
“With the latest lockdown, travel ban and now prospect of hotel quarantine, the time has now come for a bespoke support package that can get UK airlines through this crisis, and a roadmap out of these restrictions that draws upon the tools available now to us, including testing, working in concert with vaccine rollout at home and internationally.”
Airline bosses called for an opportunity to discuss an exit plan and a bespoke support package as a matter of urgency.
Patel: “still too many people coming in an out of country”
Announcing the measures, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “There are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day. The rules are clear – people should be staying at home unless they have a valid reason to leave. Going on holiday is not a valid reason.
As we have done throughout this global health emergency, we will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the public and help prevent the spread of the virus.
These new measures are on top of the restrictions already in place, all of which help reduce the risk of importing a new variant.”
She added: “All measures will be kept under review and further action will be taken to protect the public if needed.”
Leaders of the UK’s other nations and Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the Homes Secretar’s plans to reduce mandatory quarantine to Red List countries did “not not go anywhere near far enough.”