Lockdown travel ban: Industry fury as government fails to provide support

Criticism is growing of the government’s ban on travel as part of the second lockdown restrictions in England, with the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, accused of a U-turn after opening up holidays in the Canary Islands only 10 days ago.

From 5 November to 2 December, people from England will not be able to go on holiday in the UK or abroad.

Emma Coulthurst from the holiday price comparison site, TravelSupermarket, said the decision had left travel plans “not just frayed or ragged but in shreds”.

“Just a little more than a week ago, Grant Shapps tells the British public that they could now travel for leisure to the Canaries,” she said.

“On the back of this permission, tens of thousands of people, many of whom haven’t gone away for months, decide to book a break in November.

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“The return of the Canaries was heralded as a glimmer of light for the industry and for holidaymakers. Now that is torn to pieces.  

“The UK government should surely have seen a week ago that it shouldn’t have been reopening travel corridors if there was a possibility that it would need to then completely reverse that decision and implement a lockdown?”

Speaking from his Kicheche safari camp in Kenya, the veteran wildlife guide, Paul Goldstein, said: “This latest savage lockdown has crashed the whole battered industry back onto the canvas and it is unlikely to rise anytime soon, if at all.

“Incarcerating people in their homes with no avenue of escape or indeed hope is not the way out of this so-called crisis.

“Testing cohesively and comprehensively is a way out, not clumsy travel corridors, yet the whole test and trace exercise has been an utter shambles from start to finish.

“Why on earth are people penalised for travelling if they have a negative test? Travel has had nine months of this and millions around the world are destitute because of this government’s incompetence.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “We have still not had any good explanation from the government as to why they refuse to support airport testing as an alternative to such punitive travel restrictions.”

The government says it is “working at pace with industry” on a test-and-release plan to allow the current 14-day quarantine to be roughly halved. 

The Global Travel Taskforce, co-chaired by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, and the health secretary, Matt Hancock, is due to report back imminently. It is expected to recommend to the prime minister that arriving travellers who spend a week of self-isolation should be allowed to end quarantine if they test negative for coronavirus. But until 3 December, any changes will be largely academic.

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Demands for financial support are growing. Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said the second lockdown “essentially prevents air travel in the UK”.

He said: “The government has recognised the need to directly support the hospitality sector, where decisions have directly affected its ability to trade. The same principle needs to be applied to aviation.

“The government’s own statistics show that activity in aviation is already 90 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels, yet to date the government has still failed to provide any sector-specific support.

“A government financial support package for UK aviation companies must be provided now.”

The government says it has supported 55,800 passenger air transport employees under the job retention scheme, and that the aviation sector has been able to benefit from £1.8bn in financial help.

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