News of a possible vaccine for Covid-19 is hugely positive for the travel industry, but the initial rollout must not be restricted to frontline workers and vulnerable people, according to the boss of Jet2holidays.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast as he announced the launch of a tenth base at Bristol Airport from April 2021, chief executive Steve Heapy said distribution of the vaccine must be “done properly and with balance” in order to “get the economy moving”.
And he warned there would be more business failures and people going bankrupt if things go on for much longer as they are.
Heapy said: “We’ve had some good news about the vaccine. I think the current thinking is that it will go to people in care homes, care home workers, NHS staff, understandably.
“But there is an alternative school of thought that says maybe the vaccine should go to the people that are needed to get the economy going; to people that need to travel to get things moving again, because people who are at risk are perhaps sufficiently self-isolating, and so we should use it to get the economy going as well. So we’ll have to see what the government’s response to that is.”
He added: “I think it has to be a balance. Obviously, there are frontline workers dealing with Covid patients all the time that we obviously should vaccinate, but there are perhaps cases for other people, perhaps that are in roles that aren’t described as critical frontline roles, that we need to get the economy going again.”
Heapy added: “We need to get people out. People keep talking about the new normal. I don’t want a new normal, I want the old normal. The old normal was pretty good. I quite enjoyed that. I don’t want a new normal, I want the old one back.
“But to get the old normal, but we have to get the economy moving, we have to get people out and about again, we have to get shops open, people going into travel agents and booking holidays.
“So I don’t think, for the first few months, the vaccine can be restricted to a small group of people. I understand the reason for it, but I think we’ve got to take a longer-term and a wider view, and perhaps look at distributing to more people to try and get the economy going.
“There’s only so long we can carry on like this before lots and lots of businesses fail and people go bankrupt. It’s a tough call. A lot of decisions to make. But news on the vaccine is certainly very, very positive.”
Heapy said: “Hopefully, pretty soon, the production of the vaccine will commence; very quickly ramp up, and then be distributed properly, quickly and efficiently. It needs to be produced in sufficient quantities; distributed properly and evenly around the country.
“Coming from the north, I would hope that we get our quota up here. And it’s got to be distributed under the right conditions as well, it’s got to be kept at a low but stable temperature. So it’s going to be logistically quite challenging.
“We’ve got to be optimistic. I’ve been, in the past, quite critical of the pace at which some of the developments have been happening. Testing, for example. But, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a little bit of good news. The government has committed to testing a million people a day.
“They’ve got the tests in Liverpool and Nottingham, whereby they’re doing antigen tests. So that’s a good place where they can see if this type of thing works, whether it’s possible, work out logistics, and maybe roll that out across the country. So that’s one bit of good news and the second is the news about the vaccine.”