More than 20 of the UK’s largest business, education and tourism bodies have urged the government to introduce “travel corridors” with low-risk countries and health screening for visitors to Britain to boost the economy.
In a joint letter to interior minister Priti Patel, foreign minister Dominic Raab and transport minister Grant Shapps, shared with Reuters by two of the groups, the government was asked to relax its coronavirus quarantine rules and restrictions and start opening up the economy to trade partners.
The letter signed by London First, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), ADS, Association of Labour Providers, English UK, Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality and Universities UK, warns of the negative impact on education, aviation, manufacturing and tourism from the imposed quarantine.
The quarantine requiring most arrivals to the UK to self-isolate for two weeks came into force on Monday, 8 June. “Self-isolation for those arriving is designed to prevent new cases being brought in from abroad and to prevent a second wave of the virus,” the Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps explained to the Telegraph. “By stopping people coming in from spreading the virus further, we can control it and get back to normal sooner – meaning the tourism industry will be up and running faster.”
The letter proposed that the government should establish travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements for UK arrivals. “A clear set of risk-based criteria should be set out so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled re-opening”, it said.
Foreign Office’s “indefinite and indiscriminate” advice not to travel overseas also prevents businesses from being able to make their plans, the letter added.
Over 1.5m jobs across the UK are supported by air transport and more than 40% of trade with non-EU countries takes place by air. Manufacturers need air connections to export goods, while universities rely on £5bn a year from international students. “There are whole sectors of the UK economy — from SMEs to large employers — that simply won’t recover and thrive without international connections,” the letter underlined.
Airlines, which are pursuing a legal action against the policy, are pushing for the UK to agree air bridges to allow zero quarantine with other countries with low rates of Covid-19. Such a measure would be especially welcome ahead of the crucial August holiday season. The government said it continued considering establishing such travel corridors.
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