The Advantage Travel Partnership is lobbying ministers for the scrapping of PCR testing and the traffic light system for travel – supporting its argument with research showing the tests are “futile”.
The consortium commissioned independent consultant Suzanne Lugthart to review data about the Covid-19 variants imported by travellers since the restart of international travel in May.
The researcher found that just nine cases featuring Very High Priority or High Priority VOCs/VUIs (Variants of Concern/Variants Under Investigation) had been identified among almost two million arrivals since May.
“All other positive cases identified among travellers were for ‘standard’ variants such as delta and alpha which are widespread in the UK anyway,” said the report from Lugthart.
“Travel is a red herring in the overall scheme of things.
“Given this evidence, expensive PCR testing has a negligible public health purpose relative to the cost to the economic cost to the country.
“If any testing is needed at all, an LFT (lateral flow test) on arrival with a follow-up PCR if positive, will achieve the same result.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive at Advantage, said: “Now that the chancellor has confirmed that there will be no extension of furlough or sector-specific support, there needs to be a complete review of the traffic light system replacing the current broken framework for international travel.
“Under the current system, the travelling public, regardless of their vaccination status, are forced into buying unnecessary testing.
“This is a further hindrance for the industry as it cannot trade its way to recovery, and is a deterrent for overseas visitors and Brits desperate to travel.”
With the review of international travel rules looming, the consortium wants the government to develop a “straightforward, uncomplicated new system”, using the data available since May.
“Expensive PCR testing should be scrapped along with pre-departure testing for the fully vaccinated to align the UK with most other countries across the EU as there is nothing to indicate that these are a public health measure – particularly now with the government making so many exemptions for many large events such as football matches, festivals, London Fashion Week and the COP Summit – so why is it different for travel?” Lo Bue-Said commented.
“We’d like to see the traffic light list disbanded and the government to deem every country as open – particularly for those who are fully vaccinated – unless there is a country where very high or high priority variants are detected.
“We think that the inhumane hotel quarantine from red list countries should be removed and replaced with home self-isolation and appropriate testing instead.
“In addition, it’s important that there is more political international will and alignment to open up destinations beyond Europe, particularly the US and Asia which are particularly key for the business travel sector.
“Every other sector has now fully reopened and the government is unwilling to extend support for the [travel] sector.
“The government has a duty to the British public, the travel industry and the millions employed in the sector to now do the right thing and stop this chaotic system which is delivering no demonstrable public health benefit.
“The introduction of a streamlined and sustainable system would help give the travel industry a fighting chance of recovery and survival.”
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