Quarantine means pilots stay on board their aircraft

Through this awful year, I have done my best to report facts and opinions for you to interpret as you wish. But occasionally I have also had a rant against official decisions that are appear pointless at best and harmful at worst.

The blanket quarantine policy that the Home Office brought in on 8 June, stipulating 14 days of self-isolation for arrivals to the UK from every foreign country except Ireland was undoubtedly the most absurd. 

To pretend that Australians and New Zealanders arriving from countries where cases of coronavirus were vanishingly low presented a danger to the UK was clearly ludicrous. And just when travel firms were picking themselves up off the floor, the government knocked them down again. British travellers in good health would be doing everyone a favour by flying to a Mediterranean destination and spending their time outdoors rather than being targets for infection in the UK.

In the words of the Transport Select Committee chair, Huw Merriman, the Home Office “scarpered” immediately after imposing the policy and left the mess to Grant Shapps’s Department for Transport (DfT) to sort out. The first U-turn happened a month later, allowing some quarantine-free journeys along so-called “travel corridors,” followed by a series of handbrake swerves which mostly put destinations back on the “no-go” list.

But for the first five months the government clung to the ludicrous proposition that everywhere in Africa presented an “unacceptably high risk” to British visitors.

Finally, on 19 November, Mr Shapps said that Namibia and Rwanda had joined the elite group of nations from which arrivals need not quarantine.

That evening, I wrote an article headlined: “Travel Corridors? The transport secretary might as well have opened up Narnia and the Moon.”

INDY/GO Weekly Newsletter

TIME TO TRAVEL!

Read our full mailing list consent terms here

INDY/GO Weekly Newsletter

TIME TO TRAVEL!

Read our full mailing list consent terms here

I pointed out: “Just two countries in Africa – Namibia and Rwanda – are on the travel corridors list – but quarantine-free travel is impossible from either of them.

“Passengers from Namibia must change planes in another African country, while the RwandAir flight from Kigali to London Heathrow touches down in Brussels.”

RwandAir flight 700 from Kigali to London is an unusual one. It carries passengers destined for both Brussels and Heathrow. As the airline has no traffic rights for the intra-European leg, no new travellers join the plane at the Belgian capital.

It therefore meets one of the conditions for a “transit stop” that does not trigger quarantine rules. But, I wrote, “because a pilot is required to leave the aircraft at Brussels airport to conduct a ‘walkaround’ check, everyone on board must quarantine”.

To my surprise, representatives of RwandAir told me: “The pilots and cabin crew do not leave the aircraft which means the passengers on board travelling to London are not required to isolate.”

In one sense, I am delighted that people who have just visited the extremely low-risk nation of Rwanda are not obliged to quarantine for 10 days. But I have never heard of an operation in which flight crew do not perform a pre-flight visual check of the aircraft. 

It is yet another unintended consequence of the quarantine rules. I wonder if the DfT might amend its policy to allow a pilot to conduct a safety inspection?

Meanwhile, British passengers who spend only a week in Rwanda will need to spend a couple of days in self-isolation when they return. The reason: they spent time on the ground at Brussels airport on the outbound leg, when passengers joined the plane.

I report and sometimes comment on the rules – I don’t make them. But sometimes I wish I did.

Source: Read Full Article