Government ‘unlikely to change mind’ on quarantine decisions

The government is unlikely to make swift U-turns on decisions around quarantine, according to the spokesman of the Quash Quarantine campaign.

On Saturday the government removed Spain including its islands from the list of quarantine-exempt countries, but FCO advice against non-essential travel was to mainland Spain only, prompting calls for specific air bridges for the Canaries and Balearics.

Speaking before the FCO updated its advice to include the islands on Monday, Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, said: “The Balearics and Canaries certainly have a case, but I don’t think the [UK] government will change its mind.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he continued: “One thing we do know from this government is once they make a decision, they want to save face and not do a U-turn before two or three weeks. We got a U-turn on quarantine blanket a few weeks ago but I don’t believe they’re going to change immediately.

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“They have seen data clearly, and I’m told from my sources in government that they have seen data that shows the whole of Spain is ratcheting up in terms of cases [of Covid-19]. They believe the islands are also part of that and they can’t control the numbers who are going between islands and the mainland, especially Spanish citizens. So that’s what is provoking the fear in the [UK] government. So it’s understandable why they might take this measure.”

But Charles added: “The problem is they should be communicating what information they’re using to make these decisions. But I sadly don’t think the islands – the Balearics especially – are going to see a U-turn by this government.”

He said that while the government was stubborn once it had made a decision, it was also “not learning any lessons”.

“Government is still not consulting effectively with the trade before it makes a decision,” he said. “At least give a few hours’ notice to the industry, especially airlines, to be able to prepare their communication to consumers.”

Charles said the government should have provided “better communication” to the industry, and particularly those “at the core of decision-making in the travel industry”.

He added: “Airlines got no warning on Saturday evening of this coming from six o’clock onwards. It’s impossible when there’s 1.8 million people who potentially were booked to Spain to the end of August. When you’re in that situation, the government should be outlining very clearly what the planning should be, but it came out of the blue.

“There is still no clear reason why the Government has chosen this blanket quarantine across Spain and the islands, bearing in mind the islands have lower R rate; or why Portugal is not included. We still don’t know that and the Portuguese are very clear that they don’t believe they’ve got so many cases.”

He added: “There’s still too much mystery behind these decisions. And the government is not learning. And it should be, because then it will carry more people with it.”

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