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Updated: Return of pre-departure Covid testing branded ‘political posturing’

The re-imposition of pre-departure Covid testing has been branded as “political posturing” by the head of the Latin American Travel Association.

The accusation came from Lata chief executive Danny Callaghan as agency group Target urged travel agents to write to their MPs using a template email following the latest government changes to testing requirements.

Callaghan said: “The reintroduction of pre-departure PCR tests is nothing more than political posturing to give the impression of ‘doing something’ about Omicron, when it’s already here.

“Even the red-listing of African countries makes no sense when Omicron is also present in European countries which, one has to assume, are not on that list for political reasons.

“There seems to be plenty of awareness of the potential impact for the hospitality sector, with ministers continuing to encourage the public to hold parties and the facemask rules not extending to pubs and restaurants but, yet again, the travel industry is left twisting in the wind by the government.”

Target co-founder Jill Waite said: “We have been contacted by travel agents over the weekend who now fear for the future of their business and they are telling us they will not survive without financial support.”

Fellow co-founder Graeme Brett added: “This latest government announcement has devastated the industry at a time when we were starting to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

“We need Members of Parliament from all parties to support us. Please contact your Member of Parliament today and also invite them to visit your store/office/home to hear first-hand how you have been affected.”

Transport union the TSSA also joined called calls for the government to provide extra funding to protect jobs in Britain’s travel trade as new restrictions come into play.

Forcing travellers to pay for new tests in order to come back from abroad will mean many people will cancel their trips rather than pay the extra costs, the TSSA warned.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Travel companies are already saying that bookings are collapsing since the new restrictions were introduced last week – and they’ll become tougher from tomorrow.

“We fully understand that these measures are being introduced to try and contain the spread of the virus and have no issue with that.

“But the government must provide bespoke support for our travel sector including a furlough scheme so that those employed in the sector don’t pay with their jobs for containing the spread of the omicron variant.

“In addition, ministers must stop the naked profiteering of some testing companies at a time of a national health crisis by capping the price of PCR tests.

“Otherwise, there’s a very real risk that more workers in the travel trade will get the worst possible Christmas present – their P45.”

Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said tweeted: “Another week looms for the travel industry and another week of chaos.

“We have called for the government to make free day 2 tests for travellers during this review period which would also support the industry instead of killing it.”

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