The UK government’s decision to move towards regional travel corridors for islands within European countries has been largely welcomed by the travel industry, but the lack of progress on implementing alternatives to the measures has renewed fears of a raft of job losses this winter.
Making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which helps the government make decisions around which countries to add to its list of travel corridors, now had enough data available to be able to restart or shut down quarantine-free travel between the UK and regions with natural borders separating them from the rest of their nation – such as the Greek Islands, seven of which were subject to restrictions from Wednesday.
Shapps also announced that the Department for Transport and Home Office were continuing to research the possibility of implementing coronavirus testing for travellers to limit the amount of time they have to self-isolate, but warned that the government’s scientific advisors had yet to approve the private tests being proposed by airports such as Heathrow. He said the evidence pointed to a single, “day zero” testing scheme where passengers are only tested once on arrival to the UK being ineffective at catching “93 per cent” of potential positive cases and instead said he was more interested in systems such as the one being used in Iceland, where passengers are tested once on arrival and again after several days in quarantine. This type of regime has the possibility to shorten the length of time travellers will need to spend in self-isolation – currently 14 days in the UK.
Speaking to BBC News, Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Initially it [the statement] sounded like positive news. All it is really doing is adding another layer of complexity for travellers. We feel testing is vital alongside travel corridors.
“A double-testing routine would provide a more effective measure to allow travellers to return back to the UK in a safe manner. We’ve seen 40,000 job losses. This is a step in the right direction but we need the government to listen and work with us.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow airport commented: “We welcome the transport secretary’s announcement that testing to shorten quarantine is under active consideration by the government and that air bridges to islands will now be instated where appropriate. If introduced, these vital policy changes would show the government understands how critical the restoration of air travel is to this country’s economic recovery. The government needs to build on these developments and show global leadership to establish common international standards for testing before flight.”
A spokesperson for British Airways owner International Airlines Group said: “For most families, summer is over and the damage to the industry and the economy is done.
“On testing, we need to get on with it. We are way behind other countries on what has to be a more nuanced approach.”
Drew Crawley, CCO of American Express Global Business Travel, commented: “The modest easing of the quarantine measures is encouraging, but otherwise there was a disappointing lack of any significant progress, whether on traveller testing or opening up key corridors such as the London-New York route. When the stakes are this high for the UK economy, more decisive action and leadership is needed. Singapore has already managed to put in place measures that enable essential business travel to key trading countries. The UK should learn from this proactive approach and continue to engage the travel management community. As one MP correctly pointed out during the debate, the government is focusing on complete risk avoidance rather than intelligent risk management.”
BA Returns to Hyderabad
British Airways on Thursday announced its flight services to Hyderabad from London Heathrow, starting September 12. As of now, the UK-based carrier has only been operating outbound flights from Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana, under the bilateral air bubble pact between India and the UK. The airline will operate four flights a week on the route, British Airways said in a release.
Pre-departure Covid Test
Visa outsourcing firm VFS Global is now offering a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR and antibody testing appointment service for those travelling to countries where a negative result is required to obtain a visa or entry clearance. The online booking system has been made available in the UK, Austria, Belarus, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, along with other countries outside of Europe, with tests provided by accredited private medical clinics. Results are sent direct from laboratories to the traveller’s email address within 24 to 36 hours. However, VFS Global does not guarantee that a negative result will mean the traveller is eligible for entry clearance.
Meet out to help out in Oxford
After our reopening to the public on the 4th July, we've now been back open for 2 months and it's great to see the hotel breathe into life once more. As we dust down the cobwebs, let's talk meetings!
We know many people are getting exhausted with the endless video calls and the bad WiFi, glitched interruptions & poor audio quality that comes with them. Why not get more personal and meet face-to-face again from a safe social distance?
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, pop in and work from our open plan lobby area! Enjoy unlimited tea, coffee and WiFi for just £7 per person. It's a spacious and relaxing environment in which to catch up on your emails, meet colleagues for small meetings or even fellow hotel guests.