The new strain of Coronavirus is far more virulent and much easier to spread. As a result, we are now in a third National Lockdown but there STILL have been no changes to international travel in and out of the UK. Is it time to reflect on the reasons this virus got to the UK in the first place, the dangers of allowing unrestricted international air travel and the risk we pose to both the UK and other countries? I love this industry with all my heart but should there be an international travel ban?
Over the Christmas period there was an increase in passenger numbers both entering and leaving the UK as people made their way home for Christmas. Fuller flights operating at a reduced frequency with less ability to socially distance resulted in a greater chance of spreading the virus.
Almost a year after the start of the pandemic and in a third lockdown, why has the risk of both exporting and importing the virus not been addressed? It seems illogical to restrict movements in the UK yet have no restrictions on foreign travel both inbound and outbound. One by one countries worldwide are closing their borders to the UK. Should we be following suit for everyone’s safety?
The current situation was summarised in a nutshell by fellow Travel Expert Alex Macheras in this tweet.
For those that don’t see travel as a key problem they clearly haven’t witnessed the lack of social distancing, poor levels of hygiene on board and the incorrect use of masks, especially on long-haul flights. Several hundred passengers packed into a confined space for in excess of 8hours all sharing a small number of toilet facilities can surely only increase the risk of spreading the virus? Can airport-testing help? In some ways yes but given the rapid spread of this new strain, can testing alone provide enough protection for unrestricted air travel?
It seems Australia believes the risk of both importing and exporting the virus to be significant enough to warrant the introduction of an international travel ban many months ago. Let’s not pretend that the virus wasn’t spread worldwide by international travel. That’s how the virus migrated from mainland China to the rest of the world. It’s why many questioned why international travel bans weren’t introduced much sooner to stop the spread. We’re an island. Could we have protected ourselves as such?
However it now seems that this new strain of the virus may have originated here in the UK. Do we as a country want to be responsible for exporting it to the rest of the world? We all want a return to normality but the longer we delay taking robust action the more likely it seems that the virus will gather pace and spread more widely.
The travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic but if there’s any chance of a real future beyond the virus, an international ban for a longer- term gain could well be the only option. Are we just repeating the mistakes of the past by not introducing one, betraying the memory of those we have lost and risking even more lives? With Covid-19 in full flight, should its travel wings be clipped or is it already too late?