TIM ALDERSLADE: These holiday rules are alarming, confusing, and illogical. Sort it out, ministers!
This week saw the sight of happy British holidaymakers visiting beaches, bars and restaurants in Portugal, one of the tiny number of green-listed countries under the Government’s international travel scheme.
But, just as our beleaguered travel and tourism companies have started to look ahead with hope, illogical, confusing and alarming messaging from Ministers risks the whole system unravelling before it has even had a chance to get going.
The whole point of the risk-based red, amber and green system launched this week was to allow people to make informed decisions about their travel plans, knowing that non-essential travel is legal again.
This means few restrictions for green countries like Portugal, more for amber, and a clear directive that you should not travel to red.
This is a common-sense approach backed by industry, even if it means travel still won’t feel entirely normal for a while yet.
Tourists soak up the sun on a beach in the Algarve, Portugal this week as Brits flocked to amber and green listed nations as Covid-19 restrictions eased
‘The Government needs to lead by example, stop being afraid of its own shadow and follow the data, or else we face the very real prospect of the UK being grounded permanently’
Pictured: Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK
Yet this week the Government has moved the goalposts, with the Minister Lord Bethell making the astonishing claim that all travel is ‘dangerous’ and telling people to ‘stay at home’ for the whole of the rest of the year – despite international travel only being made legal again 24 hours before.
This only added more confusion following the Prime Minister’s comments that people should not travel to amber countries except under ‘extreme circumstances’.
But why not? The FCDO travel advice says it is safe to travel to at least 20 amber countries. It is not illegal to do so.
So why demonise those who have decided to travel to an amber country in full knowledge of the extra health measures, including quarantine, that are put in place to guard against any additional risk from Covid?
We have less a traffic light system than 50 shades of red, where travel is only allowed to freezing and far away uninhabited islands, one mainstream market and banned everywhere else.
We are at a truly critical point as we approach the summer.
The EU is forging ahead with plans to open up and allow unrestricted travel to those who have been vaccinated, a pragmatic approach that will be a lifeline to desperate travel and tourism industries and the millions of Europeans desperate to get away, now liberated by the huge success of the vaccines that were designed to do just that.
‘Why demonise those who have decided to travel to an amber country in full knowledge of the extra health measures, including quarantine, that are put in place to guard against any additional risk from Covid?’
But we are going to needlessly miss out, with the Government appearing determined to stamp out travel and throw away our vaccine dividend, irrespective of the evidence and the impacts on jobs and freedoms.
Of course, we need to remain vigilant and it is right that countries like India stay on the banned list.
However, India is not the world, and in much of Europe, and especially the US, cases are low and dropping, vaccine rates are high, and test and trace data shows that few if any cases are being imported, with no variants of concern.
In short, the Government needs to lead by example, stop being afraid of its own shadow and follow the data, or else we face the very real prospect of the UK being grounded permanently.