Grant Shapps, last week, has finally given the green light for double-jabbed Brits to enjoy their holidays without the need to quarantine upon returning to the UK, coinciding with the nation’s ‘Freedom Day’ on July 19th.
As a young person I fully appreciate the frustration of having sacrificed so much during a pandemic that was by and large not a threat to our age group. We were understandably, and quite rightly, given last access to vaccinations, but given that most young people could not receive their first dose until mid-June, coupled with the 8-week minimum period between vaccinations, we will be largely excluded from Shapps’ proposed easing of restrictions, at least in its initial few weeks.
Young people have also proportionately sacrificed more of their liberties through the pandemic, will be dealing with tax hikes to thwart pandemic debt for decades to come, and are now left as the predominant age group who cannot go on holiday without a 10-day quarantine upon return. Is this really fair?
Ultimately, it is not a question of fairness. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that nothing is ever fair. The focus now, for people of all ages, must be economic recovery. Whilst it stings to see others jetting abroad without restrictions dictating the conditions of their return, what stings more is the thought of continued economic stagnation. Airport bosses have pushed for fully vaccinated passengers from amber-list countries to be exempt from quarantine measures and their wishes are at last coming to fruition.
The Transport Secretary’s move is in accordance with the scientific advice and the national interest, and thus can only be a positive. Deaths are no longer rising in tandem with infections – thanks to the NHS’s impressive vaccine roll-out – and it is time to take advantage of the freedoms this can allow. Boris’ government must once again become a government that protects business and industry and puts a successful economy at the heart of British policy.
The travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and it is firmly in the national interest to see it thrive once again. When questioned previously about the state of the travel industry, Shapps said he was “massively concerned”, and whilst the government have provided £7bn of support for the aviation sector alone, it is of course superior to have the industry supported by tourism than by the ever-emptier pockets of the Chancellor.
Not only does the lifting of quarantine restrictions benefit the UK travel industry, but it will also remove the strain that is put on small businesses. Staff will have a greater availability to work and economic activity will not be obstructed. Many UK businesses have become extremely financially fragile over the course of the past year and a half and the prospect of having millions fewer Brits isolating over the peak of summer can only benefit business and trade.
If these measures are met by an end to track and trace-induced self-isolations for those who are double-vaxxed, life and the economy will be given a real and long-awaited chance to return to normal. So, whilst I may not be able to revel in the Transport Secretary’s announcement just yet, I welcome it with open arms.
This said, whilst Shapps’ move to ease travel and quarantine restrictions is a step in the right direction, questions still remain. How far will this easing of restrictions go in allowing the travel industry to support itself once again? How much progress has been made on the issue of a transatlantic corridor between the UK and the US? When will the first UK vaccine verification phase come into action to allow increased travel with our European counterparts?
The Transport Secretary’s announcement should rightly be praised, but he has a long road ahead of him until his travel nightmare is over.