The end of the travel ban, and the ability to travel to some countries without a return in quarantine, is a welcome step to the resumption of international travel. As expected, the approach is cautious. Once this first step delivers the confidence to the Government and the country that travel is safe, the list of green countries should be expanded so more of us can once again enjoy the benefits of travel this summer.
In its report, Safe return of international travel?, setting out an analysis of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce Report, the Transport Committee recognised that UK residents have sacrificed a great deal to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have been denied the freedom to visit relatives who live overseas. The committee expressed its concern that a key strategic sector for for the UK as an island nation, facilitating its connectivity to the world and supporting 500,000 jobs, could suffer significant economic detriment if it experienced another summer without travel.
The Committee recognised the profound challenges to public health generated by the coronavirus pandemic and the need to balance threats to public health against risks to the economy.
In its report, the Committee urged the Government to populate the traffic-light framework by 1 May and called on Ministers to explain the criteria and mechanism by which countries will move between the risk categories on the “Green Watchlist”.
The Committee warned that clear rules and certainty would be essential to reboot the aviation and tourism sectors facing another summer without international travel.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said:
“Our world-leading vaccine rollout has meant that 35 million UK citizens have received the vaccine, with over 16 million people receiving two doses. By focussing on the most clinically vulnerable, 99% of the UK’s COVID-mortality risk are protected and studies show that the vaccine remains effective against all known mutant strains from abroad.
"The resumption of international travel on 17 May will be welcomed by those who long to visit loved ones overseas, by UK Plc and by the hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs and livelihoods rely on this industry.
"Barriers remain in place for most of our popular destinations, notably most of Europe, which have been placed on the amber list. This cautious approach means many will have to quarantine and face increased costs from testing; this will deter travel. The promise to give transparency over methodology and data, regular reviews of the rule-set and country lists, as well as increased digitisation to open e-gates on passenger arrival, must act as a springboard for more countries to be within reach as the summer progresses.
“As we saw with schools reopening this year, reluctance soon gives way to confidence when safety can be demonstrated. The continued roll-out of our successful vaccination programme, the introduction of additional safety measures and the increased vaccination take-up abroad, should all act to give the population greater confidence in international travel. This should allow for more countries to move from amber to green this summer and unleash the pent-up desire to travel felt by so many across the country. Many jobs and livelihoods will depend on it.”