What a mess.
Just over a week ago, on October 22, the Government was unveiling new travel corridors – giving the green light for holidays to both the Maldives and the Canary Islands. The move prompted hordes of sun-starved Britons to book November breaks. The travel industry rejoiced, with businesses on the brink handed a lifeline – they might just survive the winter, after all.
Now we’re now told that all non-essential travel will be banned from Thursday, for at least four weeks.
No warning of the U-turn was given to tour operators, who must now sift through another stack of refunds while they sink further into the red. Instead of a much-needed week in the sun, would-be holidaymakers are facing anxiety-inducing frustration, and – in the case of independent travellers – financial losses. What a way to run a country.
The decision has left the best laid plans of holiday firms “not just frayed or ragged but in shreds”, according to TravelSupermarket’s Emma Coulthurst. She added: “One minute, just a little more than a week ago, Grant Shapps told the British public that they could now travel for leisure to the Canaries. On the back of this permission, people, many of whom haven’t gone away for months, decide to book a break in November – tens of thousands of people. The return of the Canaries was heralded as a glimmer of light for the industry and for holidaymakers. Now that is torn to pieces.”
During a pandemic, one could argue, decisions need to be taken at short notice. But if the Government had any inkling at all that another shutdown was on the cards, why was it launching travel corridors 10 days ago?
It’s all indicative of blind panic. After all, this second lockdown is being imposed on the basis of overblown and unpublished predictions by scientific advisors that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. We’re told that, without a lockdown, we could see 4,000 deaths a day. Yet cases are already levelling off across the country and in the worst affected areas they are falling. No nation on Earth has seen daily deaths anywhere close to 4,000. Even Brazil, with its sceptical president, relaxed measures, and population of 210 million, only reached 1,554 daily deaths during its winter peak. Are we really supposed to swallow this nonsense?
Both the evidence and common sense suggest that stopping holidays to destinations with far fewer Covid cases than Britain won’t do the slightest bit of good.
Just last week the ONS revealed that travel is no more risky, Covid-wise, than staying at home, and many destinations – including the Maldives, Madeira, and, from next week, the Canary Islands – now require visitors to take a test before they travel. (Testing, of course, is Boris’s big thing, and was cited as the reason why Premier League football can continue – yet, after eight months of lobbying, we still don’t have widespread testing for travellers at UK airports.)
According to Public Health England data, the majority of outbreaks are happening in hospitals, care homes, schools, universities and workplaces. Yet the Government, in its wisdom, is choosing to hammer those industries – tourism and hospitality – that are responsible for a tiny fraction of infections. Furthermore, in defiance of all logic, we’re told that the failure of lockdown measures – which, given the above, is quite likely – will be cited as evidence for the need to continue with those same measures.
Even domestic holidays are off the cards. A week of autumn walks and cosy evenings in a Cotswolds cottage sounds like just the ticket right now, especially for city dwellers. Happiness and exercise boosts your immune system, and the risk of spreading Covid on a UK break, assuming you drive and remain within your household, is negligible. So why the blanket ban?
There are exemptions to the travel ban that will make your blood boil. Business travellers, who – unlike winter sunseekers – typically spend their time meeting other people, in busy urban environments, can come and go as they please. Because suits and ties ward off Covid, apparently.
Tradesmen and estate agents can visit private homes, but self-catering companies, which have already jumped through countless hoops to prove themselves ‘Covid safe’, cannot continue to operate. Perhaps the sight of a plumber’s butt-crack scares off the virus…
On Saturday, as he announced the shutdown, Boris Johnson spoke of the need to be “humble” in the face of nature. But there is nothing humble about his ham-fisted attempts to “control” a virus. This Government, ever fearful of the unavoidable Covid enquiry, is engaged in little more than destructive arse-covering – with travel and hospitality seen as the easy target.
These futile measures will do precious little to halt the blasted bug, but the impact on the livelihoods of millions – both here and abroad – and on our collective mental health, will be profound.