Industry leaders want plan for variants at next travel review

Industry leaders want a “proper plan” for dealing with future variants and no repeat of the “panic” reaction to Omicron following the government’s removal of pre-departure and post-arrival PCR tests for vaccinated travellers last week.

A review of the system for international travel is now expected in late January and a leading airline source said: “We want a proper plan. The review will set out the system for travel for 2022 [or] what the government hopes for and we should be at the point now where we know what will happen in different situations.

“We don’t want a last-minute panic like the Omicron reaction. That shouldn’t happen again.

“We’ll still have restrictions in other countries, but we hope to see a plan for what to do should a new variant arise – so we can be ready and have contingency plans. By knowing what comes next the industry can respond quicker. Unexpected measures – changing websites, notifying clients at short notice – are extremely difficult.”

The source added: “We hope the review will be discussed across the devolved administrations.”

In addition, the source said: “We want to get rid of the remaining test on arrival [for vaccinated passengers]. It has created an enormous secondary industry [in test providers] at great cost to travellers and at what value?”

The source dismissed the idea that the government is poised to change the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ to include booster jabs, saying: “We don’t see a move by the UK to do that. They’ve listened to industry concerns that it would substantially reduce the size of the market – although that might change in future.”

A second source agreed: “We don’t see the definition of fully vaccinated changing at this stage.”

The sources suggested the red list will remain but hotel quarantine be removed, saying: “The government has no intention to remove the red list from policy. There is no rationale to remove it. [But] there are discussions in government on removing hotel quarantine to have self-isolation at home.”

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