Why quarantine measures might kill off our travel industry as well as the virus
The Government have just put another nail in the coffin of the summer travel industry. The quarantine measures being introduced on 8th June are far too late and, in fact, are far from being the right solution at this time.
Harsh as quarantine is, it’s a highly effective measure at the start of a virus crisis, not once it’s petering out. Quarantine rules quickly stamp out a virus being spread by those entering or leaving a country. Countries including New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam and Finland successfully put quarantine in place very early on, and the results have been striking, with just 21 deaths in New Zealand and 0 in Vietnam. These countries had successfully learned from previous virus outbreaks, such as SARS, that you have to move fast.
Yet, with Covid-19 under control, the UK is choosing to apply these measures just when our economy needs a giant pick-me-up. Enabling summer holidays overseas would be the tonic, not to mention encouraging non-Brits to visit our shores.
But, as the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) notes, “the best approach to contain Covid-19 is through focusing on testing travellers upon arrival or departure and monitoring them with contact tracing apps.”
It would be relatively easy for airports, with huge amounts of terminal space, to invest in such testing facilities, especially as results can now be delivered within 20-30 minutes. In the time it takes to wait for your bags to be delivered on the luggage belt, you could be cleared to enter our green and pleasant land.
The apparent resources being used to do spot-checks on those in quarantine would be better diverted into testing as people enter the UK, thereby stamping out Covid-19 before any carrier has the chance to spread it further en route from the airport to their quarantine address.
What’s deeply worrying for the travel sector is not the £1000 fine that may be imposed on anyone breaking quarantine rules, but the millions of pounds not being funnelled into bookings as people are put off by the prospect of 14 extra days in lockdown.
11% of the UK’s total workforce is employed in the travel and tourism economy. The pandemic has already put 1.2 million jobs at risk.
But these latest measures will inflict further damage and leave us asking the question – why isn’t the testing strategy good enough in the UK to do quarantine’s job for it?