Industry sources want the government’s January review of its international travel policy to go ahead regardless of whether the current travel restrictions have been lifted or retained.
They argue the review should develop a policy to deal with variants of concern such as Omicron and provide a clear exit from any future restrictions.
The UK government re-imposed pre-departure tests for all UK-bound passengers over the age of 12 from Tuesday and added Nigeria to its red list, taking it to 11 countries. From November 30, all arrivals in the UK have been asked to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
One source in regular contact with the government told Travel Weekly: “We don’t want the January policy review to be pushed back or overshadowed by Omicron.
“We need to see a policy to deal with variants of concern. It should be possible to manage any situation, to accommodate any situation within a policy
“We saw it with the government’s red list. We had no countries on the red list, but we still had the red list policy so it was possible to manage the situation [when the Omicron variant was identified in Southern Africa]. That is what scenario planning should mean. We need to see that for variants of concern.
“We need a process s and trigger points so you don’t have to change policy every time we have a variant, with an exit strategy for removing restrictions.”
For now, the source argued: “We have to work out how we unpick this from a public health perspective. If the health advice is to have restrictions we have to accept that. But we need pragmatic measures that are workable, that people can understand and accept and that the industry can make effective.”
The source added: “We’ve been assured this is an emergency measure until we have the science [on the variant]. We’re saying ‘When we have the science, one test has to come off’. But we don’t see the government removing the PCR test. We don’t think there will be a change [before Christmas]. Why change it one week, adjust the next and change it again the third?”
A second source warned: “We don’t see these measures being removed before the end of January. The Department for Transport is saying there will be a three week review. We just have to see. There is a suggestion they will be in place for two to three months.
“But we can’t let this linger for months. We would hope by next year we’ll have a pretty clear understanding of the variant.”