UK new quarantine laws is terrible news for Tourism in Greece
Is Britain closed for business?
Traveling to the UK after June 8 means two weeks of mandatory quarantine both for residents and visitors. This is bad news for countries relying on British tourists. It’s surprising such measures are being put in place at a time many say the curve is already flattened, and not at the beginning of the critical period to protect the population. Passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train – including UK nationals – will have to provide an address where they will remain for 14 days. There is a £100 penalty for anyone found to have not filled in this ”contact locator” form.
Surprise visits will be used to check they are following the rules. Those in England could be fined up to £1,000 if they fail to self-isolate, while governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can also impose penalties.
Compared to other regions this almost sounds like a weak policy. In Hawaii for example violators may face one year in jail and up to $5000 in fines.
In other words, anyone brave enough to enjoy beaches in Greece will not be able to go to work, school, or public areas, or use public transport or taxis once returning home to the U.K. They should also not have any visitors unless they are providing essential support, and should not go out to buy food or other essentials where they can rely on others.
British authorities may have overlooked the World Health Organisation guidance issued in February on the effectiveness of travel restrictions. It said such measures ‘may only be justified at the beginning of an outbreak, as they may allow countries to gain time, even if only a few days, to rapidly implement effective preparedness measures’.
But the UK decided not to go down that path, unlike countries such as Australia and South Korea, and Hong Kong, which banned travel from the Hubei province in China and then imposed restrictions on inbound travelers from all countries as well as a strict 14-day quarantine on anyone entering their country.
Not only is the timing of the Government’s announcement odd, but the effectiveness of the strategy is questionable. Greece has said international flights to tourist destinations will start to resume gradually from July 1. This measure may have just killed any hope by Greek Tourism officials to welcome British visitors to their beaches, hotels and attractions.
Comparative infection rates also prove the nonsense of this policy. In Yorkshire and the Humber for example, there have been 13,598 cases of the virus. The whole of Greece, with a population of around 10.7 million, has seen only 2,853.
In other words, in Yorkshire and the Humber, for every million people, 2,482 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus. In Greece, it’s just 266 per million. Other countries have been more successful than Britain at containing the virus.
For example, infection rates in Cyprus, Malta, and Latvia are persistently lower.
It means that someone traveling by train from Scotland to London with no restrictions or checks is 4.7 times more likely to have the virus than a holidaymaker returning to Heathrow from Greece. Anyone crossing the border from Scotland to England will not be quarantined.
The sensible route is to allow holidaymakers to travel to and from countries that have lower rates of infection and, if necessary, only quarantine travelers from countries with higher rates of infection.
Ryanair and British Airways alone have cut 15,000 jobs due to Coronavirus. The new blanket quarantine policy will draw out the damaging effects of the virus on these sectors and puts further jobs at risk.
The Transport Secretary has floated the idea of ‘air-bridges’ whereby travelers would be free to move between the UK and countries with low levels of infection. In other parts of the world such method is to create tourism bubbles.
Austria has introduced a system at Vienna airport, whereby visitors or returning citizens can go for a spot-test and, providing they get the all-clear, can avoid a 14-day quarantine period. Other countries are introducing extensive temperature screening at airports.
Taken together, these measures could help identify passengers with the virus and allow them to be treated and isolated as and when necessary.
Greece is open to agreeing on an air-bridges deal with the UK, with Greek tourism minister Haris Theocharis saying they would drop the requirement of quarantine for UK visitors if we did not impose the requirement on Greeks coming here.
Allowing free travel to and from countries with a low infection rate would help protect tourism jobs and slowly bring back a sense of normality.