Covid-induced restrictions on international travel were imposed in England without an “overall assessment” of their impact, according to a report released today.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said there was no system put in place by the government to measure the success of self-isolation, passenger control forms and the quarantine hotels.
The watchdog also reported that there was a failure in tracking the cost of travel rules.
According to the report, different government departments were responsible for different policies as the government “did not have an assessment bringing together all the risks across its border measures as a whole.”
Even though changes had to be made at short notice, they were implemented without a “formalised system-wide mechanisms to help it adapt its approach,” which resulted in rules changing at least 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022.
The research criticised several aspects of the government’s Covid strategy, including the mostly unregulated Covid-testing market and the contact scheme.
“Between May 2021 and February 2022, UKHSA was unable to confirm whether on average one third of those required to isolate had been doing so, ranging between 26 and 42 per cent of possible non-compliance during these months,” the report read.
A UK Government spokesperson rebutted saying the measures “bought vital time” to the UK’s response and contributed to “the national effort to contain and manage the virus.”
Talking to City A.M, aviation analyst Alex Macheras said the UK aviation sector received the short end of the stick compared to EU rivals as a result of the “erratic mishandling by the UK Government.”
Macheras said passengers were forced to spend over £12m per week on mandatory tests, while last-minute travel categories were invented without giving the public an explanation.
“Highly vaccinated countries with low infection rates were stuck on banned red lists purely because they were situated in areas of the Earth the government perceived as ‘not like us’ – as the Middle East or Africa,” he said.
“The turbulent, unsure nature” of aviation policy development, he added, “contributed to the destruction of the sector, the lack of confidence in passengers, and created an immense level of uncertainty over the concept of travel.
Industry stakeholders are now calling on the government to learn from its mistakes.
“There are lessons to be learnt from the approach to international travel during the pandemic – future policy needs to be joined up, transparent and evidence based,” said a spokesperson for travel association ABTA.