Last October I sent a letter to my local MP, Mike Penning, the contents of which I posted on here and we’re directed at how the travel industry can plan to restart. This is the response from Grant Shapps:
It remains vitally important that we manage the risk of COVID-19 and keep the number of cases of COVID-19 in the UK as low as possible. The Government recognises that COVID-19 has had an immediate and profound impact on businesses and consumers’ ability to fly within the UK and across the globe.
The Government has put in place an unprecedented package of cross-economy financial support, including liquidity schemes and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CRJS), which has now been extended to March 2021. If airlines, airport or other aviation organisations find themselves in trouble as a result of COVID-19 and have exhausted the measures already available to them, we have been clear that the Government is prepared to enter discussions with individual companies seeking bespoke support.
With regards to Air Passenger Duty (APD), the Chancellor has announced that there will be a consultation on aviation tax reform. As part of this consultation, the Government will consider the case for changing the APD treatment of domestic flights, such as re-introducing a return leg exemption, and for increasing the number of international distance bands. The Treasury is keen to engage widely as a part of this consultation and welcomes input from businesses, individuals, trade bodies and other interested parties.
In terms of a regionalise approach to travel corridors, the Government updated the travel corridors policy on 7 September 2020 to enable islands to be added to the travel corridor list separate to their mainland countries, where the available data supports it.
It is not considered safe to implement a fully regional system for travel corridors – there is too much movement between high risk and lower risk regions within single countries and regional health information is not sufficiently reliable. However, when a region has natural boundaries – like an island – the risks reduce. Decisions on travel corridors are reviewed weekly and data is kept under constant review to determine whether it is safe to add a country or territory to the travel corridor list. If a country or territory which is on the list becomes high risk, we would not hesitate to re-introduce self isolation requirements.
As of 14 December 2020, the self-isolation period for arrivals in the UK from non-travel corridor locations has been changed to 10 days from 14 days. This change came into effect across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland; it already applied in Wales. Also, the “test to release” scheme is one outcome of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce report recently presented to the Prime Minister, which set out the steps it is taking both domestically and on the international stage to enable the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel. From 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the Government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate. With those opting in to the scheme having to book and pay for a COVID-19 test from a private provider on the GOV.UK list, we are ensuring the NHS Test and Trace testing capacity is protected. We acknowledge that the tests may cost more than many people will be willing to pay; we expect the cost of test to decrease in the future as testing technology advances and the market expands.
The Taskforce’s recommendations blend immediate action, including the implimentation of the test to release scheme, with longer term measures that will help to reassure passengers, make travel easier, boost the travel sector and most importantly – keep everyone safe. The recommendations are based on advise from a consortium of expert representatives from the aviation, maritime, international rail, tourism and hospitality industries to boost international travel for all modes, whilst safeguarding public health in the UK. The Government will continue to work with international partners and representatives across the transport industries to further build on the recommendations in the report, including exploring pre-departure testing for pilots with partner countries on a bilateral basis.
We have heard the sector’s requests for additional support and this has been outlined. It is therefor right that our work on medium term recovery needs to build on that immediate work and we now expect to publish a medium-term recovery plan following a successful restart.