The UK’s aviation industry has called on the government to implement focused quarantines on specific regions of overseas countries in a bid to prevent further damage to the sector.
Over the weekend, ministers decided to make it mandatory for all travellers returning from Spain to self-isolate for 14 days after a spike in infections in the north-east of the country.
Holidaymakers returning from the Balearic and Canary Islands will also have to quarantine, the government said.
Sector body Airlines UK said the decision to reimpose blanket restrictions felt “like two steps forwards and one step back”.
In a statement, it said: “We need the Government to work with the sector to consider a more targeted, regional approach where quarantine could apply only to affected regions of a country.”
It also called for airport testing so that those who are Covid-negative can continue to travel without the need to self-isolate upon arrival.
Germany is one such country to have adopted a regional approach, with its foreign ministry today warning citizens against travel to Catalonia, Navarre and Aragon.
Noel Josephides, a director at travel association AITO, said that Germany’s “sensible and logical thinking” contrasted with the UK’s “swift panic response”.
“[It seems] to have been made without much forethought or common sense or, indeed, without any consultation with the UK’s travel industry.
“The government, despite many approaches from the industry, chooses to ignore us and not to seek our input. This is patently foolish and explains to a large degree government’s apparent stabs in the dark”, he added.
Today transport minister Baroness Vere confirmed in the House of Lords that the government was considering using regional quarantine measures in the future.
“A mortal blow” for industry
The chief executive of the Business Travel Association warned that the decision to reimpose the measures could be “a mortal blow” for the industry.
In a letter to the secretary of state, Clive Wratten asked for further clarity on the government’s criteria for deciding when and how to impose quarantine measures.
Wratten continued: “This vital information will enable travel management companies to anticipate and prepare for future changes to travel advice.
“Our members can then provide better counsel to the British businesses they serve, restoring confidence in business travel.”
He concluded: “Since March, business travel has fallen by 90 per cent. If this trend continues throughout 2020, business travel’s contribution to GDP will fall by £150bn, whilst nearly 10,000 jobs in our sector will disappear forever.”
Pilots union BALPA also joined in with calls for a regional approach, calling the government’s initial response “a blunt tool”.
“We are asking the Government to sharpen the ‘blunt tool’ approach and look at the Covid problem at a regional and city level rather than blacklisting entire countries”, said general secretary Brian Strutton.
Hundreds of pilots jobs are at risk due to the pandemic, which has devastated the aviation industry around the world.
Major airlines such as BA and Ryanair are in the process of negotiating with their employees over new pay deals as a result of the disruption.
Strutton added that taking a regional approach “would allow airlines to rebuild much needed connectivity, give people confidence to travel, kick-start business and would provide a boost to the UK economy.”
As of yesterday, Spain has the highest number of cases in Europe after the UK, with 272,421 people infected according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Figures show that Spain has 35.1 cases per 100,000 compared to 14.7 in the UK.