Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Airplane Wastewater Study Reveals UK Travel Restrictions Didn’t Halt Covid Spread

2 days ago

A laboratory study has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the UK’s travel restrictions last year.

Scientists at Bangor University in Wales tested wastewater on planes to monitor coronavirus infections and the general health of passengers coming into the UK from other countries.

Almost all aircraft arriving at the three monitored UK airports (Heathrow, Edinburgh and Bristol) between March 8 and March 31, 2022 had the virus in their wastewater, according to the study, published in medical journal PLOS Global Public Health.

“Despite all the intervention measures that the UK had in place to try to stop people with the illness getting on flights to the UK, almost every single plane we tested contained the virus, and most of the terminal sewers, too,” said professor David Jones of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, reported Lab Manager.

“That might have been because people developed symptoms after testing negative, or were evading the system, or for some other reason. But it showed that there was essentially a failure of border control in terms of Covid surveillance.”

Wastewater sampling has been cited as a better method to monitor travelers coming from China, rather than requiring negative pre-departure Covid tests. Airports Council International Europe has argued this can shift the focus to genomic sequencing to identify new variants.

The British government spent around $585 million on implementing a traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons review in July last year found that it was unable to tell if it worked, or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.

A review into Canada’s travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic also claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Bangor University helped track the spread of Covid in early 2020 by testing wastewater in major cities. Scientists at the university hope wastewater sampling will extend beyond coronavirus, allowing the UK government to establish an “infectious disease transmission surveillance network” for any future viruses, Lab Manager also reported.

Tourism

UK Government Not Clear if Covid Travel Restrictions Worth $585 Million Worked

6 months ago

Despite spending around $585 million on implementing its traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

The government introduced health measures at the border from 2020 and implemented controls in four main phases, and from early 2021 operated a new “traffic light system” that broadly remained in place, with modifications, until March 2022. The traffic light system placed countries on red, amber or green lists, with more restrictions applying for travel from red-list countries and fewer for green.

The report released on Tuesday stated that while the government did not track spending on implementing health measures, the National Audit Office estimated that the government spent $585 million on the traffic light system in 2021–22.

The government also did not strike the right balance between its reliance on the travel industry to implement travel controls and the support it provided.

“Carriers were legally responsible for checking that everyone travelling to the UK had submitted a Passenger Locator Form recording their contact information and recent travel history. This imposed extra costs on carriers in a period where their revenue had fallen dramatically,” the report stated.

Although the government provided access to up to $9.6 billion of financial support during the pandemic, this was mostly general support from the furlough scheme. It did not provide any additional financial support to carriers to implement the travel controls it introduced.

Despite government’s reliance on carriers, it sometimes did not provide carriers with sufficient notice ahead of public statements that travel rules were changing. People travelling found the rules difficult
to understand, and 40 percent of them did not know the rules on self-isolation, according to the report.

While the National Audit Office noted that changes at short notice in the fast-moving environment of the pandemic was inevitable, but the processes for communicating these changes to those responsible for implementing them, in advance of a public announcement, were not timely.

“The government is not learning lessons fast enough from the pandemic and is missing opportunities to react quickly to future emergencies… In the longer term, health measures may be needed to deal with new variants of Covid-19 or other diseases such as monkeypox, so government needs to ensure it is able to respond quickly,” stated the report.

Tourism

China Cuts Quarantine Time for International Travelers to 7 Days

7 months ago

The National Health Commission of China has slashed the quarantine time for inbound travellers by half.

International arrivals will now only need to spend seven days in a centralized quarantine facility, and then monitor their health at home for three days, down from seven previously.

Relaxing its stringent zero-Covid policy has already spurred travel industry share prices, in particular airline stocks. China’s measures over the past year resulted in international flights running at just 2 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to reports.

The share price of Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines’ rose by almost 2.5 percent in early trading on Tuesday.

The restrictions have long deterred cross-border travel, and frustrated millions of Chinese citizens living outside of their country. Widespread restrictions also prompted major hotel companies to tread cautiously regarding future development in the country.

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