Battered travel industry urges UK to rethink Covid-19 quarantine policy

Tourism sector concerned at impact on holidaymakers as rise of cases in Europe puts more countries on list

The travel industry has urged the government to rethink its 14-day quarantine policy for holidaymakers as rising coronavirus cases on the continent – including France and Greece – put more countries within the scope of the blunt approach.

Testing at airports and regional quarantine requirements are among alternatives put forward by tourism figures concerned by the impact the policy could have on an already battered sector.

France recorded its highest increase in cases since May on Friday, while countries emerging as preferred alternatives to Spain and France, such as Greece, have also experienced a steep rises in the number of cases.

There were 2,288 new cases in France in the 24 hours to Friday, leading many to presume it will be added to the government’s quarantine list, which requires anyone entering the UK from selected countries to self-isolate for 14 days. Spain, Belgium and Andorra are currently among European countries on the list.

Meanwhile, Britain’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 1,062 on Sunday – the first time the daily total has risen above 1,000 since late June – up from 758 cases on Saturday. Eight people were confirmed to have died with Covid-19.

Emma Batchelor, the director of Discover Ferries, which represents the passenger ferry industry in the UK, said: “We strongly advocate that any quarantine restrictions introduced by the UK government should be proportional and kept under close review in order to enable people to continue to travel to safe destinations and suggest adopting a regional rather than a country-based approach to quarantine.

“We also call on the government to be transparent on its decision-making criteria and time frames so people can make an informed decision on where they can travel for their long-awaited holidays this summer.”

It came amid signs that people were rebooking planned Spanish holidays for other countries, such as Greece. But late on Sunday Greece revealed it had recorded 203 new infections in the previous 24 hours, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak in the country, underlining the uncertainty across the continent. Greece has had just over 200 coronavirus deaths in total.

Paul Charles, a travel consultant at the PC Agency and founder of the campaign group Quash Quarantine, which has paused a planned legal action against the restrictions, said it was crucial the government learned from its mistakes with Spain and gave holidaymakers and the industry significant notice to allow consumers to rethink their plans.

He said the blanket quarantine approach was wrong, adding: “Much better to have another solution, which is a combination of temperature testing at airports, swab or saliva testing at airports and very effective test and trace, and then you have a very good alternative to quarantine, which doesn’t have the same impact on the economy.”

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “Extending the furlough scheme would help enormously, as would stimulus measures such as an air passenger duty waiver, which would save many of the routes that will otherwise be lost this winter.”


Jamie Grierson Home affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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