CONFERENCE REPO The Covid pandemic, government reaction and Foreign Office advice dominated Continued from page 40

NHS take more pressure’.” The transport secretary

told the convention: “Some promote the idea we should test at borders. [But] accepting a day-zero test on arrival could allow significant numbers of people to believe they are Covid-free when they’re not, and that would create a new problem for the travel industry.” Shapps also rejected the idea

the government had been slow to support travel, saying: “There has been billions in support to the travel industry. Aviation has been the most paid-out sector.” Referring to Brexit, he

said: “We remain hopeful an agreement can be reached. We expect the EU to bring forward contingency arrangements if there is no agreement and we would reciprocate.” His address drew a sharp

response from Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer who said “we’ve yet to see evidence” of the work Shapps has done. Tanzer said the transport

secretary appeared not to “take on board the fact that we’re still in the middle of this crisis”. He said: “Most travel corridors

remain shut. Removing blanket Foreign Office advice is crucial. We now have a system of three tiers in the UK. We must be able to apply these same tests to regions overseas.” Tanzer pointed out: “We

need to know how the logistical side of this is going to work.” He added: “I was alarmed

by the response on Brexit. He seems to be waiting for the EU. “Where is the evidence that

aviation is a key strategic asset for the UK? We haven’t seen evidence of what he is doing for the sector.”

Doctor highlights cost of private Covid-19 tests

Air passengers are being forced to pay for Covid tests even before the government introduces a coronavirus-test regime at travellers’ expense. That is according to crisis

management expert and private health consultant Dr Charlie Easmon, who told a Travel Convention workshop: “A lot of

people are requested by airlines, at relatively short notice, to show they’ve had a negative Covid test. “Airlines don’t accept NHS tests

because they don’t come with any form of certification, so people are forced into private testing.” He said: “Testing 48 or 72 hours

before a flight can be a challenge. If the flight is on a Monday, it can be almost impossible because testing labs are not open on Sunday.” Easmon described the prospect

of rapid testing as “exciting”, but said: “The challenge is government regulation. That is a roadblock.” He noted “the growing number

Dr Charlie Easmon

of people with ‘long Covid’” and argued: “People who say we should just let everyone become infected are really saying ‘Some of you will die and some of you will become chronically ill’. That is not acceptable.”

FCDO says travel advice is under constant review

The Foreign Office planned to drop its blanket travel warning and move to country-specific advice this summer, but the “trajectory” of Covid-19 prevented this. However, Jennifer Anderson,

director for consular affairs at the Foreign Office (FCDO), assured Abta’s Travel Convention: “The advice isn’t static and it will change.” She said “we know our travel

advice is a key concern” and insisted: “We’re listening to and acting on your concerns.” Anderson told the convention:

“Our global travel advice has been in place for seven months. In the early summer, we started to issue exceptions to that. Our assumption was the pandemic was in retreat and we would revert to issuing Covid-19 advisories for just a small number of countries and territories. “Sadly, that has not been the

trajectory of the disease. In the past month, we’ve seen record daily infection rates in many countries.

38 22 OCTOBER 2020

As a result, today we’re advising against travel to all but 59 of the 226 countries and territories for which we offer advice.” She acknowledged “how difficult

this is for the travel industry” and said: “We don’t want to make the situation any worse. Like you, we worry about levels of fear and uncertainty. We know our judgements have an impact on your forward bookings.” However, Anderson insisted:

“Our understanding of the risks has evolved since March, as has the basis on which we consider Covid-19 related travel advice. “We’ve worked with Public

Health England, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the National Travel Health Network and Centre and the chief medical officers to build a picture of the risks to travellers in each country and a whole range of indicators to assess the risk. “We aim for the advice to be

as up to date as possible. Both our conclusions and the underlying

Jennifer Anderson

methodologies are evolving and under constant review. “As infection and mortality rates

evolve and treatments improve, the risks to travellers will improve [and] we’re committed to ensuring this is reflected as quickly as possible.” Anderson added: “We look

forward to when our advice can reflect a more normal time. In the meantime, we’re committed to working as closely as possible with Abta, other industry partners and the Department for Transport.”

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