The uncertainty surrounding the current UK travel industry has seriously jeopardised its attempted recovery after many months of shutdown. The government has the power to remove ‘travel corridors’ with countries and imposing a 14-day period of self-isolation on travellers’ return at short notice. This has effectively removed consumer confidence in booking a ‘post-lockdown’ international trip at a time when it could be make or break for certain UK travel companies.
With the list of countries that UK residents are able to travel to quarantine-free reducing, international holidays could be postponed until 2021 or further. Booking a holiday from a UK airport is purely a gamble at present, as if the traveller decides not to travel due to new imposed travel restrictions, refunds cannot be claimed as flights if the flight still operates. Passengers are faced with a choice of go on holiday and spend two weeks in quarantine on the return, or lose the cost of the holiday itself.
With the recent shift to the majority of office workers working from home, for some travellers the 14-day quarantine will be manageable. However, for others who have to travel to a place of work, and following recent ‘back to work’ advice from the government, quarantine on return is not an option. Travel needs to be safely resumed in order for multiple areas of the economy to rejuvenate.
Testing on arrival is a strategy preferred by many
There are calls upon the UK Government to implement testing at UK airports, where passengers would take a test, and isolate until the results are given, then can carry on with daily life as usual. This would be more manageable as test and trace abilities in the UK are lagging behind other European countries and such a solution would fit into more UK residents’ lifestyle.
The UK aviation industry has warned that if testing upon arrival in the UK is not implemented, the economy could see a loss of 110,000 aviation jobs, in addition to those already lost throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Heathrow Airport, the busiest and largest airport in the UK has developed Covid-19 testing centres within the airport, in which results are available within 30 minutes. Passengers arriving at London Heathrow would be able to take a test when arriving from ‘high risk’ countries and proceed from there. This is a positive step in ways to remove the quarantine and help kick-start the travel industry again. The tests would be available for a cost of £30 per test, which in comparison is a small price to pay for the freedom it may give.
The UK is well behind compared to Europe and the rest of the World
Methods in controlling the virus, such as test and trace and Covid-19 testing upon arrival in the country are much more established and successful in other countries. For example, Germany implemented an effective test and trace system from the first infection in January, and this has been attributed to the control of the virus.
Alongside this, Germany requires all arrivals from ‘high-risk’ countries to be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival, and the test is carried out in all major airports in the country. The cost of this is covered by the German Government, and is offered to all arrivals, not just those from risk areas.
The UK is lagging behind on Covid-19 measures, and travel companies are feeling the burden. An effective and clear strategy must be put in place to reduce uncertainty and encourage recovery.