One year on, we are no further forward. We have a devastated industry, jobs lost and global Britain shut for business. We have gone backwards. We now have more than 50 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, yet we are more restricted on travel than we were last year.
I really do not understand the government’s stance. It is permissible for a person to travel to countries on the amber list, provided that it is practicable for them to quarantine when they come back, but the messaging is mixed and the system chaotic.
Portugal was put on the green list, people went to the football, then Portugal was put on the amber list, leaving holidaymakers scrabbling for flights. That is not to mention the impact on the airlines, on travel agents, and on the tourist industry.
Business travel is practically impossible: global Britain has shut its doors to business and investors. In a normal pre-pandemic year, passengers travelling through Heathrow spent £16 billion throughout the country. That has been lost.
There are some facts on which the government needs to be upfront with the British people about. First, we will not eradicate Covid-19 from the UK. There will not be a time when we can say that there will never be another case of Covid-19 in this country.
Secondly, variants will keep on coming. There will be new variants every year. If the government’s position is that we cannot open up until there are no new variants elsewhere in the world, we will never be able to travel abroad ever again. The third: sadly people will die from Covid here in the UK in the future, as 10,000 to 20,000 people do every year from flu.
We are falling behind the rest of Europe in our decisions to open up.
The government may say all they have about the importance of the aviation industry, but they need to decide whether they want an aviation sector in the UK or not, because at the rate they are going, they will not have one.
It is incomprehensible, I think, that one of the most heavily vaccinated countries in the world is the one that is most reluctant to give its citizens the freedoms those vaccinations should support.
This is an edited version of Theresa May’s speech to parliament on Thursday 10 June.
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