The UK’s airlines and airports have renewed their call for a bespoke package to support the industry after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher border restrictions would be put in place to protect the country against new variants of COVID-19.

The Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK were responding to speculation that UK arrivals would be restricted to hotel-based quarantine on arrival. Johnson has indicated that the British government was “actively working on” the option of quarantine hotels. Inbound travellers would pay to be isolated at a hotel on arrival. The system would be similar to Australia, where arrivals have to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days at a hotel.

Policy must be “based on evidence”

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, the trade association for UK airports and Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers, said further restrictions could prove “catastrophic” for the industry without financial support.

They said: “Less than two weeks ago the UK introduced some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world. Flights today are already banned from countries with high infection rates. Pre-departure controls mean anyone arriving in the UK has already tested negative. There is further quarantine upon arrival and the option of a second test.”

“We have fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic, but policy should be based on evidence and there must be a roadmap out of these restrictions as soon as it is safe.”

“Impact of further measures would be catastrophic”

“The impact of further measures would be catastrophic. They will impact vital freight and PPE supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation. The Government cannot achieve its Global Britain aspirations without airlines and airports. The Chancellor recognised the need for support given the pandemic’s impact on aviation in March 2020. The time has now come for warm words to be turned into a bespoke support package that can get us through this prolonged crisis.”

Scientists fear the new COVID variants, which have been identified in Brazil and South Africa, as well as the UK may be more deadly, and that vaccines may be less effective against them.

Johnson said: “We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in – we’ve got to be able to keep that under control. We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad. We need a solution.”

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