The world needs a holiday

The government must scrap the ridiculous quarantine policy and let us travel.

William McGee

Topics UK World

‘A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking’, sums up how many people will feel about the state of the country right now. We all look forward to a holiday, and Matt Hancock’s newfound optimism on whether we will be able to travel this summer gives us a glimmer of hope that we might be able temporarily to escape our new, boring routines and reinstate a bit of the old normal.

The health secretary, who had previously said, ‘It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer’, has more recently said on ITV’s This Morning that he was ‘a little more optimistic than I was about being able to get some foreign travel back up.’ For those who wouldn’t mind a bit of sun, sea and sand this summer, no matter how lavish, Hancock’s latest words are welcome.

However, the possibility of a week or two abroad this July or August is not a privilege extended to all – mainly due to the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on those entering the UK from other countries. The quarantine does not apply to everyone – there is an official list of exempted travellers.

But in practical terms, what this means is that vast swathes of the population will be effectively excluded from being able to take a holiday. The government list of exempted travellers does not cover the majority of key workers who are not able to work from home. This seems unfair, given their pivotal role in sustaining the country’s health and wellbeing in recent months. In order to take a one-week break, a key worker would have to book three weeks’ leave. For full-time employees, this would mean the loss of half to three-quarters of their annual leave. For casual workers, it would mean sacrificing three weeks’ salary.

I have some skin in the game. I am a key worker on a casual contract, and I have a week-long jaunt to Spain booked for July. If we were to apply common sense to the situation, we would see that the infection rates are on the decline in both the UK and in Spain. Spain is currently only registering a few hundred cases of Covid per day out of a population of 47million. Not to mention, I’m a healthy, under-40, and by this stage airlines and airports have had more than enough time to instate relevant health-and-safety precautions.

While you are all no doubt concerned about my prospect of holidaying abroad this summer, there is another reason we should rethink the self-isolation rule. As well as prohibiting key workers from leaving the country, it deters foreign tourists from coming in. In normal times, tourism contributes £106 billion to the British economy, supporting 2.6million jobs. Getting our tourist infrastructure back up and running would provide a massive boost to our struggling economy.

While it might be reckless to relax every restriction overnight, we should be taking our first tentative steps towards reinstating travel and tourism. Again, common sense can be applied. We can continue to curb those coming from coronavirus hotspots if necessary, while starting to welcome those from relatively Covid-free areas.

One of the great developments of the modern era has been making travel accessible and affordable to the masses. But the current lockdown-driven crisis risks ruin for the companies at the forefront of this revolution. Indeed, the airlines that have received state aid during the coronavirus pandemic have mostly been national carriers, such as Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, whose services are typically more expensive than those of budget airlines. There is a real risk that if we don’t get back to normal soon, foreign travel could once again become the preserve of the elite.

Furthermore, travel has all kinds of intangible benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health – all of which have been tested during this period of forced confinement and closed gyms and leisure centres.

The recent warm weather in the UK – pollen count aside – has been welcome, but also tantalising. No doubt many are having wistful thoughts of their summer weeks on the Med. As the virus recedes, it’s time for a holiday. God knows we need one.

William McGee is a writer.

Picture by: Getty.

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Gareth Edward KING

21st June 2020 at 9:52 pm

William, why on earth would you want to come to Spain for a holiday? The raw statistics say one thing, but this government is determined to ramp up the fear factor come what may. There is zero possibility of contracting this pesky virus at either the swimming pool or on the beach. Never mind! We’re going to insist that people book an appointment for both! I kid not! Rather like going to the doctors’! Once at the pool or on the beach they insist on the two-metre rule! In fact, not wanting to waste anytime, some authorities-Galicia is the most notorious-are parcelling out space on the beach so that ‘appropriate social distancing’ is respected at all times! I’ve seen some nutcases with muzzles on at the beach! What is the point of going to these kind of places if spontaneous social interaction is prohibited? Fejoo, the president of Galicia has emphasised most unhelpfully that although people from Madrid ‘are welcome’ (that’s gracious of him) there needs to be a ‘cap on numbers coming just in case there’s a peak in cases’! Where are we? Spain? or China? I do sometimes wonder! Benidorm (Alicante) has still not opened up its beaches, or if it has, it’s by appointment only! These are public spaces! The country is supposed to be seeing off the last of this horrendous, over-the-top ‘confinement’ June 21st. Unfortunately, the position of Madrid with its 6.1 million people in the whole province is probably not going to see free movement any time soon! Isabel Díaz Ayuso as the regional president is said to be ‘furious’ (she actually said ‘offended’). Not surprisingly. Madrid presently is no bunch of laughs: 90% walk round with faces like slapped arses with that MUZZLE on! Day and night! In and outside the city! I’ve seen saddies with DEATH MASKS on in the middle of no-where! And this is supposed to be a major tourist destination! 90 billion Euros has apparently been lost since this unwarranted scare, anybody would think that tourism didn’t contribute 12.3% to Spanish GDP. It’s a crying shame, but the country’s going to the dogs. Get those pieces of cloth off your faces people!

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