October 2, 2023

Lukewarm reception to reduced quarantine

By Bev Fearis, published 25/11/20

Business travel chiefs are calling on the Government to scrap the quarantine altogether, saying reducing it to five days is not enough for a meaningful restart.

The Department of Transport announced yesterday that from December 15, travellers returning from ‘high risk’ countries who take a test on day five of the 14-day quarantine would be allowed to stop isolating if the results come back negative.

But Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said it’s “only a small step towards opening Britain for business”.

“These tardy and incomplete recommendations undermine our ability to compete in the global marketplace,” he said.

“The Government urgently needs to introduce a requirement for all travellers into and out of the UK to have a pre-departure test. It must also give business travel an exemption from the blunt and misguided quarantine measures.”

The World Travel and Tourism Council agreed a reduction won’t be enough to resuscitate meaningful business travel.

“Whilst it may provide the shot in the arm needed to bring about the return of some international leisure travel, it is simply not enough to bring back the economically boosting business travel,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC President and CEO

“A single internationally recognised cost-effective test for all departing air passengers should be used to remove crippling quarantines and begin the gradual process to revive international travel, save the sector and bring back millions of jobs around the globe.”

The argument was echoed by Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss, who claimed moving to a pre-departure regime, supported by latest independent evidence, would be twice as effective as quarantine.

“Passengers should be able to take a test from up to 72 hours before departure, including a rapid test at the airport on the day of departure,” he said.

“We call on the Government to follow the evidence, support industry trials, and lead the way in allowing free movement of people and goods to resume. We hope that testing will also lead the way for US borders to open to UK travellers.”

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged Government Ministers to use the latest change as a “platform to move to regular testing as an alternative to quarantine” and called for a Common International Standard for pre-departure testing.

Andrew Crawley, Chief Commercial Officer for American Express Global Business Travel, said pre-departure testing is already working elsewhere in the world.

“We know other countries are doing this, and without meaningful action the UK will continue to fall behind,” he argued.

Chris Galanty, Global CEO of FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller, was more optimistic, saying the five-day quarantine will give clients greater confidence to plan and book trips.

Advantage Travel Partnership Chief Executive Officer Julia Lo Bue-Said said it was a “start on the road to recovery” but “still not enough to stimulate most business trips”.

“Five days is still too long. We would have preferred to see a rapid testing option,” she said.

Announcing the plans, the Government’s Global Taskforce said it is also considering whether a system where travellers undertake a self-isolation period before travel, followed by a test, could be adopted with some partner countries.

“The objectives of this would be to reopen markets currently closed to UK residents due to other countries’ Covid-19 border restrictions,” said its report.