Reports the government is poised to reintroduce quarantine rules on travel from Portugal triggered widespread dismay amid industry calls for ministers to switch to regional restrictions and testing travellers.
Portugal was only added to the ‘travel corridors’ list on August 22. Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Jamaica were removed from the list on Saturday, with Cuba added.
An aviation source involved in talks with the government warned: “Removing Portugal would further impact on passenger confidence.”
An airline source agreed: “It will add to public uncertainty. The government needs to come forward with a testing regime. We want a policy decision.”
The aviation source insisted: “Government statements have not been positive, but we still think we can get somewhere on testing.”
Ministers have been considering testing passengers on arrival and again five to eight days later as part of a review of quarantine measures.
The source said: “We don’t know the outcome of the review. The government appeared to be converging on a position of tests on arrival and five or eight days [later].
“We’ve been told testing [solely] on arrival has limited effectiveness. [But] we want the principle that Covid tests can reduce quarantine recognised so we can indicate the direction of travel to consumers.”
The airline source noted “airlines would much prefer a single test at minimal cost” and warned a decision would not produce an immediate relaxation, pointing out: “There is a difference between a decision on testing and starting testing. It’s not something that can be put in place within days.”
Industry leaders hit out at the government. Willie Walsh, head of British Airways parent IAG, accused ministers of “using arbitrary statistics to ban 160 countries and destroying the economy”.
Tui UK head Andrew Flintham called for “regional travel corridors” that might allow travel to the Algarve to continue. However, the government has already ruled these out other than to islands.
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