Omicron: Sajid Javid responds to fears of Christmas lockdown
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Holidaymakers are again trying to navigate travel restrictions. After a month of relative freedom, the emergence of Covid variant Omicron has spurred the Government into reintroducing the red list.
Countries all over the world have tightened their travel restrictions, putting the end of year holidays at risk.
However, Sajid Javid has hinted the travel restrictions could be gone as quickly as they have been introduced.
Answering a question from a Midlands opposition MP, the Health Secretary said the restrictions could end “very soon”.
There are currently 11 countries on the red list, but the Government has also brought back PCR tests and pre-departure tests, quarantine hotels and mandatory self-isolation.
Tahir Ali, representing Birmingham Hall Green for Labour asked about the chances that the red list would be extended.
He was particularly interested in the Indian subcontinent, where he said many of his constituents would have planned travel during the school holidays.
Sajid Javid said: “It is just not possible to give a guarantee for any particular country that there will not potentially be any future measures.”
However, he also gave all holidaymakers a sliver of hope when he added: “Very soon, in the days and weeks that lie ahead, if, as I think is likely, we see many more infections and this variant becomes the dominant variant, there will be less need to have any kind of travel restrictions at all.”
When Omicron becomes dominant in the UK, travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the variant will be futile.
This could mean quarantine, as well as other restrictions could be lifted sooner rather than later.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has called on the Government to review its new travel restrictions and said they were damaging the recovery.
Charlie Cornish, MAG chief executive, said: “The first half of this year tells a story of how travel restrictions held back the recovery of UK aviation, especially when compared to the rest of Europe.
“As restrictions eased, passenger numbers grew steadily at all three of our airports.
“The reintroduction of costly and inconvenient travel testing requirements has created further uncertainty and delayed our recovery.
“The Government has talked openly about the damage these restrictions cause to the travel sector, but neither they nor the opposition have recognised the critical need to support our industry in return.
“As a business, we will always do our part to protect public health, but we also need these temporary measures to be removed when they are no longer worthwhile.
“These restrictions may have slowed the arrival of Omicron, but it is now transmitting in the community, and the Government needs urgently to review whether the rapidly reducing benefit of testing justifies the damage it is causing to consumer confidence.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “The health secretary understands well that travel restrictions are utterly futile when we have community transmission and that’s why we’re pushing hard for these latest, emergency restrictions to be rolled back at the December 20 review.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “As omicron is already in the UK, Sajid Javid could do the right thing and remove the onerous restrictions now, as they are serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever.”
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has also called for blanket restrictions to be lifted.
They reminded countries that “the imposition of blanket restrictions on travel is discriminatory, ineffective and contrary to WHO recommendations”.
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