Published on : Thursday, October 15, 2020
On Wednesday, the U.K. government announced that it has decided to form a special travel task force in order to support the travel industry and promote the safe recovery of international travel. The move comes nine months after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the U.K. tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors. It has been mentioned that the Global Travel Taskforce will report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It will be co-chaired by Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport and Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
The Global Travel Taskforce will aim to consider the steps that would be undertaken by the government on a domestic as well as international level to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel. In order to fulfil the aim, the task force will work with the industry towards to safely reduce the self-isolation period with testing, consider a wide range of other measures to support the travel sector including developing a global framework to make travelling easier, as well as analyse ways in which the government will protect NHS testing capacity while supporting the development of privately funded alternatives.
Post the latest move by the government, several industry leaders including the chief executives of Virgin Atlantic and easyJet issued a joint statement stating that the formation of the taskforce was a ‘step in the right direction’. The statement also added that more urgency in implementing the measures is required at the moment and mentioned that travellers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November. However some aviation industry professionals still consider the formation of the taskforce as a belated effort by a government that has been consistently lobbied to support the industry but has so far failed to deliver.
Dale Keller, Chief Executive, Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) issued a statement that mentioned that so far into the crisis, airlines are expecting more details than the announcement of a new taskforce. He mentioned that the industry has been continuously engaged with the government, including the Expert Steering Group formed back in May and informed that a huge amount of international experience and proposals have been placed so far, including the benefits of pre-departure testing. He said that authorities believe that a scheme could be implemented very quickly in a matter of weeks.
Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive, Airlines U.K., an industry association which represents U.K.-registered carriers, added in his statement that the government is considering testing as a step forward but the industry requires detailed information. He mentioned that a pre-departure testing for all arrivals in the U.K. is required as the process is becoming an international norm, as soon as practically possible. He also said that aviation is at a critical juncture and no time is left to lose. He also urged the Prime Minister to move rapidly in order to get testing off the ground no later than the end of November so Britain does not lose further ground with its closest rivals.