The government removal of blanket quarantine on all arrivals to England is “terrific news” but having two separate lists for exempt countries and FCO advisories has been dubbed “confusing” and “a “communications nightmare”.
Industry leaders reacted to the latest announcement on a Travel Weekly webcast hosted minutes after the government published its list of the 59 countries it is deeming safe for Brits to travel to and return without the need to quarantine.
Paul Charles, co-ordinator of the Quash Quarantine campaign welcomed the government’s announcements today – but compared following the twists and turns to “keeping up with an Eastenders plot”.
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He said: “It’s great news the government has finally seen some sense and actually listened to what our industry has been saying for more than six weeks now.
“It’s terrific they are removing the blanket quarantine from July 10. It’s good news there is a bit of certainty – not 100% – but a bit of certainty over the countries that you can try to go to from tomorrow (Saturday, July 4), when the Foreign Office advice will change.
“But of course, there are many countries on the list that have their own restrictions so if you want to go, you won’t be able to get in unless you are prepared to quarantine [on arrival to countries such as New Zealand].”
Charles said there was a “real danger” that the government’s lists are “pretty confusing for customers” and predicted it would take a few days for it all to unravel in terms of how easy it is for people to understand and have a clear and definitive picture.
“For us, watching it every day, it’s something we’re still getting our heads around, but for most consumers, they won’t have a clue,” he added. “This has been a very complicated journey for all of us in the industry to get to this stage.”
Commenting on the apparent lack of the traffic light system for countries, that the government announced would be put in place last week, Derek Jones, chief executive of Der Touristik UK, parent of Kuoni, said: “It would appear, as far as quarantine is concerned, that it’s either on or it’s off, which is a little bit different from how it was trailed in some of the many trails we’ve had prior to this announcement.”
But he said there was still a possibility that the FCO advice will employ a traffic light system in terms of how safe a destination is, and warned of more confusion because there could be “potential differences between both the lists”.
Jones said: “This has been a pantomime from start to finish. We could have been shouting ‘He’s behind you!’ and ‘Oh no it isn’t!’ based on the number of announcements there have been over the last few weeks.
“We are now at the interval of the panto where we can all pause for breath, but I don’t think we are there yet. We need to wait to see what the FCO advice is. Only once we can put all the information together, will we have a better idea.”
Charles agreed with Jones and described the to-ing and fro-ing getting to the removal of quarantine as a “communications disaster” and that there seemed to be “a step-change every day in the process”.
Commenting on the fact that the announcement of the ‘safe’ list was for England only, and did not include the devolved administrations, Charles said: “This is very interesting territory because never before have we seen different immigration requirements for England, compared to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“It’s confusing, it adds to the communications nightmare for companies across the UK who have branches in different parts of the UK and keeping up with this is like keeping up with an Eastenders plot. It’s just unbelievable how it’s transformed,” he said.