UK travel rules to curb Covid were ‘disproportionate’, MPs say
The government’s travel rules to control the spread of coronavirus were ‘disproportionate’ and ‘arbitrary’, according to an influential group of cross-party MPs who have called on ministers to do more to ease the hiring crisis as the aviation industry starts recovering again.
The House of Commons Transport Select Committee said on Monday that passengers were “struggling to navigate a confusing ‘traffic light’ system” which has resulted in 15 different changes to travel rules in less than two years. It also highlighted the problems people are having accessing affordable Covid-19 testing for travel and refunds for canceled flights.
The findings are part of a report on the government’s handling of travel during the pandemic. He said the rules were “disproportionate to the risks to public health, causing a serious financial shock to the sector”.
Huw Merriman, the group’s Conservative chairman, acknowledged the government faced a “difficult position” to respond to the global pandemic. “However, government action was inconsistent. It has left the industry and passengers confused and unable to plan ahead,” he said.
The MPs’ findings come a week after a National Audit Office travel rules report said the “Government cannot demonstrate that its enforcement measures have achieved value for money”.
The travel rules aimed to reopen safe international travel during the pandemic by introducing testing requirements for returning passengers, as well as classifying each country as green, orange or red, depending on infection rates. coronavirus. Each “traffic light” had a different set of rules for returning passengers, including mandatory hotel quarantines for countries on the red list.
But the travel industry has despaired of an often chaotic system that has seen countries quickly reclassified, often with little warning, leading to stampedes as people rush to the UK.
There is no evidence that the use of mandatory quarantine in hotels has reduced infection rates, while the return of strict travel restrictions at the end of 2021 “had little effect on the spread” of the Omicron variant in the Kingdom United, according to the report.
He said companies should be compensated for commercial damages if future travel restrictions are introduced and go beyond any rules affecting the national economy.
The report also called for greater consumer protection, including giving the Civil Aviation Authority the power to fine airlines that fail to refund customers correctly, by automating refunds rather than forcing people to apply themselves, and by delaying proposals to allow Heathrow Airport to increase its landing fees for a year.
Ministers scrapped all travel restrictions in March as part of a wider rollback of Covid-19 rules and indicated the future “default position” would be to impose as few travel restrictions as possible.
The travel industry’s recovery has also been marred by industry-wide staffing issues, with hours-long queues reported at several airports over the past month.
The report says the government should help reduce the backlog of staff awaiting security clearance by making the system more flexible and prioritizing airport workers.
Ministers have already written to aviation chiefs outlining plans to speed up the recruitment process, including allowing new hires to undergo training before background checks are completed.
Airlines UK, a trade body, said the government should now focus on supporting aviation, including the transition to net zero, while the Airport Operators Association called for “a comprehensive recovery package” , including financial support to restart some routes lost during the pandemic.
The Department for Transport said the rules were ‘only in place for as long as absolutely necessary and the UK was the first G7 country to remove all travel restrictions’.
“Going forward, the Government’s default approach will be to use the least stringent measures, to minimize the impact on travel as much as possible and these will only be implemented in extreme circumstances,” he added.