Tories Attack Boris Johnson’s ‘Muddled’ U.K. Virus Travel Curbs
Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire from members of his own Conservative Party on Wednesday over the “muddled” approach to quarantining arrivals in the U.K. as he was urged to introduce coronavirus tests at airports.
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer of London’s Heathrow Airport, said ministers should stop playing “quarantine roulette” with passengers after the government advised against all non-essential travel to Spain and required people arriving from the country to self-isolate for 14 days.
Warnings from Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that other countries could be added to the quarantine list at short notice if Covid-19 cases rise did little to reassure the beleaguered tourism industry, Conservative lawmakers said.
The policy will “destroy a chunk of the tourist business” and “take away people’s holidays,” Tory MP Crispin Blunt told BBC Radio on Wednesday.
“If you have a muddled policy like that, and one that has serious implications for people, don’t be surprised if they get very cross, and don’t like it.” His Conservative colleague David Davis agreed on Twitter.
Holland-Kaye said Heathrow will aim to introduce Covid-19 testing for arriving passengers by September if it can secure official U.K. approval for the move.
Britain’s decision on travel to Spain also drew anger from Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who described the U.K.’s blanket rule, which takes in areas of the country with low levels of the disease as well as hot-spots, as “unbalanced.”
Dowden played down the chances of a change in policy by warning that there is “no viable alternative” to the 14-day quarantine period.
“The challenge we have here is that it’s not the case you can simply test somebody and be sure they don’t have the disease,” he told the BBC. “It can incubate over a period of time, so there’s no silver bullet of just testing immediately at the border.”
On Tuesday, Johnson said the U.K. must remain “vigilant” about a spike in infections in Europe, and said the government “will continue throughout the summer to take such action where it is necessary.”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said Johnson’s travel decisions are sapping people’s confidence at a time when the government needs them to get to work and to the shops to help revive the U.K. economy after lockdown.
“What I’m worried about right now is that as a nation we have completely lost the balance of risk,” he said. “We keep getting these lurches that frighten people. We need to get people back to work.”
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