Red Savannah chief executive George Morgan-Grenville has been leading the travel industry campaign to get quarantine measures abandoned
It’s still hard for me to fathom why the home secretary, Priti Patel, is planning to introduce quarantine measures next Monday which are totally at odds with Britain’s economic needs today.
Of course, it’s not a time to be glib about the severity of coronavirus or the terrible damage it has already done to so many livelihoods. But at what point do we say as a country that we have to get the economy moving again, especially in travel, as there may never be a vaccine? To avoid long-term economic hardship, I firmly believe that point is now.
Countries that have successfully handled the pandemic, such as New Zealand, Vietnam and South Korea, introduced quarantines and effectively closed their borders very early on, as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Yet, only now, is the UK Government choosing to introduce these measures which could, and should, have been done in early March to help reduce case numbers.
As far as we know, there is no proven scientific basis for introducing them now. And why have they waited until June 8, some three weeks after revealing their hand? How many people will have entered the UK by next Monday, potentially spreading coronavirus without having to quarantine? Crucially, what is the point of quarantine when there are so many loopholes; such as entering via Dublin or if you’re a scientist. And how are the rest of Europe able to get their economies going again when the UK is effectively shutting for business?
With an effective test and trace service now being put in place, all that quarantine measures do is deter foreign visitors coming here, deter UK visitors from travelling abroad and, most likely, cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on us.
It’s no wonder the very threat of quarantine has been putting off UK consumers from booking trips. Sales across the travel sector have fallen off a cliff. Who wants to book a relaxing trip abroad and then have to worry about being stuck at home for 14 days on their return? Will their employer let them go away if they are then potentially stuck afterwards and unable to work?
Quarantine is doing so much damage that the 300 or so travel companies and individuals who have endorsed my letter to the home secretary – and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us, including Travel Weekly – are all hurting so badly.
Our latest research shows that 71% of those who responded say they may have to lay off up to two-thirds of their staff if quarantine measures start on Monday.
99% say the measures will cause widespread damage to the UK economy and 28% say they may cease trading altogether.
These numbers are not just some random sample size. They are real people who employ tens of thousands of colleagues and who have often passionately built up their businesses over many years.
There is also almost complete unanimity when asked what measures should be put in place instead of quarantine with 94% of respondents saying they prefer a series of air bridges; 98% supporting greater testing at airports, ports and Eurostar; and 87% believing that the new Test & Trace system makes quarantine unnecessary.
Nearly four million people are employed in the travel and tourism sector in the UK, some 11% of the country’s entire workforce.
By pursuing its quarantine plans without due regard for the economic consequences, the government is choosing to ignore the devastation it will cause to companies, to employment and to the lives of all those whose jobs will be lost. The quarantine measures are a blunt weapon which will bring only economic disaster.
Let’s hope that MPs debating the measures later today (Wednesday) see sense – and stop the inevitable job losses for the voters who put them into power in the first place.
Those wishing to endorse the call for quarantine plans to be removed can email their support to: email@example.com
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