CBI urges loosened travel restrictions amid ‘last chance saloon’ for summer

A plane takes off at Heathrow Airport (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
0:01am, Wed 04 Aug 2021
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Business leaders have called on the Government to open up travel at a faster rate, as the holiday flights industry faces a “last chance saloon” for the summer season.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for a “new settlement” to help the travel industry and the UK economy more broadly “live with Covid”, which would mean fewer people flying into the UK would need to isolate on arrival.

John Foster, CBI policy director, said: “The international travel sector is in the last chance saloon for its the summer season. Restrictions must be relaxed if beleaguered businesses are to salvage any opportunity to trade their way towards recovery this year.

“The UK’s successful vaccine rollout, coupled with lessons learned throughout the pandemic, offer genuine opportunity for more travel to resume safely. The UK urgently needs to widen the list of those able to avoid self-isolation on their return to include individuals who have received UK-approved vaccines, rather than just those who received NHS vaccines.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

“Rebuilding passenger confidence will be key. Establishing simple, consistent rules and communicating them clearly is essential.

“The decision to abandon publication of an amber watchlist is a sensible step towards that goal, but the Government must get back to consulting industry first, thus creating better policy and enabling improved implementation.

“In addition to lifting restrictions, Government should prioritise the creation of an efficient pre-travel system of assessing passengers’ Covid-status to prevent congestion at airports.”

A report released by the CBI proposing a “new settlement for living with the virus” calls for “using mass-testing to stop mass self-isolation”, sometimes called test and release, to allow passengers to take a test when they arrive in the UK to avoid quarantine.

The CBI also called for better use of “Covid-secure tools”, including hygiene and ventilation, a “workable” Covid passport scheme for large venues, and mandatory mask rules for close contact situations, which would help industries across the board.

It also said the Government should “widen the list of those able to avoid self-isolation on their return to individuals who have received UK-approved vaccines, rather than just those who received NHS vaccine”, as this would help to “build confidence” in international travel.

We are regularly reviewing our international travel policy, based on a range of factors and the latest scientific data available and we have provided £7 billion to help support the industry during the pandemic

The CBI wants to see the Government “maximising” the UK’s “world leading vaccine programme” by encouraging groups where uptake is low to get a jab, and also working with businesses to organise an autumn booster jab programme.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We recognise this is a challenging period for the sector, as we seek to balance the timely reopening of international travel while safeguarding public health and protecting the vaccine rollout.

“We are regularly reviewing our international travel policy, based on a range of factors and the latest scientific data available and we have provided £7 billion to help support the industry during the pandemic.”

New rules allowing fully-vaccinated passengers from the US and amber-list European countries to avoid self-isolation on arrival in the UK came into force on Monday.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

The relaxation of rules allows passengers who have been double-jabbed with a vaccine approved by regulators in the US, the EU or Switzerland to avoid 10 days in self-isolation.

They will be required to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before the second day after they arrive in England.

Ahead of their introduction, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the plans as a “smart, sensible” approach and insisted they were a “modest opening up” of restrictions.

Ministers had considered creating a new “amber watchlist” earlier this week for countries where the rate of infections were rising and could soon be placed on the red list.

Spain and Italy could have been among the countries placed on this watchlist, but the move was reportedly scrapped after division within the Cabinet.

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