The UK Government doesn’t know whether the traffic-light system implemented during the pandemic worked.
According to a report published today by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), ministers spent £486m on travel measures to contain the spread of Covid but “did not track its spending on managing cross-border travel or set clear objectives.”
The group of cross-party MPs said that – despite relying massively on airlines to carry out checks on health documentation – the government didn’t give aviation sector-specific support.
It also didn’t allow enough time for the industry to adjust to the changes in legislation.
“The government changed the rules at least 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022, but gave the travel industry little time to adapt its operations for those changes,” the report read.
The PAC argued that the ministers throughout the pandemic worked on a crisis-response mode, not learning lessons from the pandemic fast enough.
“In the longer term, health measures may be needed to deal with new variants of Covid-19 or other diseases such as monkeypox, so the government needs to ensure it is able to respond quickly,” MPs added.
Kurt Janson, director of the Tourism Alliance, said the report’s findings were concerning.
“We were continually assured at the time that the frequently changing traffic light system was a sound and proportionate response to the risks, yet we now find that the government does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption,” he told City A.M.”
Introduced in early 2021, the traffic light system set the rules for international travel based on a country’s level of Covid risk.
Countries were sorted into green, amber and red lists and those travelling from red-list nations were forced to quarantine for 10 days in a government-approved hotel.
City A.M. has approached the Cabinet Office for comment.