EasyJet, British Airways, Tui and Heathrow Airport were among 47 travel industry signatories to send an open letter to the government calling for a more “nuanced” approached when it comes to its quarantine policy.
Airlines, airports and tour operators came together to urge Boris Johnson to drop blanket travel restrictions following the sudden removal of Spain from the Department for Transport’s (DfT) quarantine-exempt list.
After much confusion, the Canary and Balearic Islands were also removed from both the DfT list and the Foreign Office’s separate list of destinations where its blanket warning against all travel no longer applies.
The letter claimed there was “no obvious rationale” behind the move; the current rate of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the Canary Islands is around two, compared to the UK’s 14.
It also warned that current government policy would leave the travel industry “permanently scarred” and that a much more targeted approach, based on testing and the “rapid introduction” of “regional” travel corridors, was needed.
This latter measure would allow Brits to travel to unaffected parts of Spain, as well as areas of countries such as Canada and the US with low Covid-19 rates, without having to quarantine on their return.
“It is clear that the Canary and Balearic islands are not facing the same epidemiological situation as parts of mainland Spain, with rates of Covid that are lower than the UK,” reads the letter.
“This means we are in the extraordinary situation where the government is encouraging domestic tourism but advising against travel to areas of Spain that have lower rates of Covid than the UK.”
Testing for all arrivals from high-risk countries has also been encouraged by some industry leaders, including the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye.
He said: “The UK needs a passenger-testing regime and fast.
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“Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette. As many of our customers have experienced, it’s difficult to plan a holiday that way, let alone run a business.
“Testing offers a way to safely open up travel and trade to some of the UK’s biggest markets which currently remain closed.
“Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing. If the UK doesn’t act soon, global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”
The DfT looks set to change its list of travel corridors again in the coming days, with speculation rife that Luxembourg and Belgium will be removed after significant spikes in the number of Covid-19 cases.