Blanket quarantine is a “smokescreen for a not very effective test and trace system”, the co-ordinator of the Quash Quarantine campaign has claimed.
Warning that more campaigning from the industry may be needed, Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, said: “The government knows and is building a system. But it’s not mission-ready yet and it needs to be so that we don’t have to put quarantine in play.
“I think we may need some further campaigning around quarantine if it starts expanding again, because we need to keep the pressure on the government that is not an acceptable solution. Other alternatives are available such as better testing at airports; the whole notion of track and trace.
Charles added: “Test and trace is being used so effectively in other countries around the world so I don’t know why our government isn’t putting more money into these things? They are available, there are companies doing them and trialling them, and there are countries such as Iceland, Austria, Vietnam and many others who are using their airports very effectively to test and trial people coming into their countries, and they’re keeping their case numbers down. So I don’t understand [why we are not].”
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, which represents over 1,000 independent travel agents, urged the government to be more “honest”.
“If the government haven’t got it ready, just be honest. Be honest with us about where you are on track and trace but say ‘we’re going to get there’. Let us bring pressure to bear on the airlines, the airports and everybody to invest in that,” he said.
“The quarantine is a blanket policy and clearly the government must be doing that because they haven’t got the better solutions ready. Other countries have. That is disappointing. They will take criticism for that. But just be honest because that’s what we need in a crisis…honesty.”
Charles said: “The government is quite an immature government. Whether they’re successful or not is another issue, but this is a government that only effectively came in in December, and as a result, they don’t fully understand the travel industry and how it works.
“They don’t understand the minutiae of refunds, of how airlines work with tour operators, or how monies are paid so far in advance across the travel. They really do still need to learn how the industry works and that might help their policy decision making.”
Charles argued that the fact outbound travel falls between several government departments was also a problem.
“It’s complex because there are so many government departments involved. You’ve got the Foreign Office, you’ve got the Department of Transport, you’ve got the Home Office involved in enforcement, you’ve got Downing Street, and you’ve also got the Treasury.
“When you put all these government departments together, it’s no wonder there’s so much miscommunication or misaligned communication and that is one of the fundamental problems with the way the travel industry is being treated.”