Jab should give freedom, not timorous isolation… This decision to add seven more countries to the red list is a savage blow to the travel sector, writes Easyjet boss JOHAN LUNDGREN
After all the misery inflicted by the Covid pandemic, the travel industry desperately needed a shot in the arm.
Instead it has just been given a kick in the teeth.
At the very moment that Britain should be opening up, given that the virus is in retreat, the Government has decided to impose more restrictions.
In a depressing step backwards, it was announced yesterday that seven additional countries are joining the red list of high-risk destinations, including such popular hotspots such as Egypt, Sri Lanka and Trinidad.
Even more regrettably, the Government has actually removed Portugal from the green list of countries where journeys can be made without any requirements for quarantining and self-isolation.
‘At the very moment that Britain should be opening up, given that the virus is in retreat, the Government has decided to impose more restrictions’
This decision is a savage blow to the sector and to thousands of Britons, who are either in Portugal at the moment or had booked trips to go there soon.
Some will lose money, others will have holiday plans ruined – and for what?
The exclusion of Portugal makes no sense and is wholly unjustified by science, since the country’s rates of Covid infection are much the same as the United Kingdom’s.
Nor is there any sign of disease beginning to surge again in Portugal, with hospital admissions and deaths at extremely low levels.
Indeed, the whole current system is riddled with gross inconsistencies and anomalies.
‘This decision is a savage blow to the sector and to thousands of Britons, who are either in Portugal at the moment or had booked trips to go there soon’
The British Government pledged to give special consideration to European islands, but that looks like another broken promise.
The Balearic Islands off Spain have a current Covid infection rate of just 33 per 100,000 people – significantly lower than the 50 per 100,000 in Britain – yet they remain on the amber list.
Similarly, restrictions still apply to Malta, where the infection rate is just 12 per 100,000.
The reality is that, with the Covid crisis now rapidly diminishing throughout the continent, nearly all of Europe could be put on the British Government’s green list and such a step would not have any negative impact on the United Kingdom.
The absurdity of the Government’s stance is further highlighted by the fact that there are no restraints on domestic travel by car, train or air around Britain, yet a number of places badly affected by the Delta variant have far more serious Covid problems than most of Europe.
Britain’s ill-conceived approach is costing the airline industry millions of pounds. Jobs are being lost, livelihoods destroyed
Yesterday’s decision makes a mockery of the political rhetoric which promised that the vaccine programme would bring back normality and freedom.
The jabs were meant to allow us back to the beaches of Spain and villages of France.
Yesterday, an important milestone was reached as more than half of the adult British population has now received two doses.
Shouldn’t that have been the cue for great travel liberation rather than more tightening?
It is highly unconvincing of the Government to argue that caution is needed because of the risk from new variants. That is a recipe for a permanent shutdown.
As the distinguished Oxford professor Sir John Bell put it this week: ‘If we scamper down the rabbit hole every time we see a new variant, we are going to spend a long time huddled away.’
If ministers think that Britons should not travel, then they should be honest, instead of presiding over endless chaos that wrecks plans, promotes frustration and damages business.
But rather than being gripped by fear, they should look across to Europe where Governments are embracing openness.
Typical is the Netherlands, which allows unrestricted travel, without any further tests, both for anyone who has been fully vaccinated or anyone comes from a country that has an infection of less than 150 per 100,000.
‘If ministers think that Britons should not travel, then they should be honest, instead of presiding over endless chaos that wrecks plans, promotes frustration and damages business’
Britain’s ill-conceived approach is costing the airline industry millions of pounds. Jobs are being lost, livelihoods destroyed.
This month alone, 1,800 flights were due to depart from Britain for Portugal. In light of the green list decision, many of those will now have to be withdrawn.
In one sense my own company of easyJet is lucky, in that 50 per cent of our operations are outside Europe.
Even so, like the rest of the industry, we have been badly affected.
A radical change in thinking is needed.
Brexit, we were told, was a great opportunity for Britain to take its place on the global stage as a buccaneering, ambitious nation.
That chance is now being squandered as ministers pull us into timorous isolation.
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