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Covid-19 Quarantine: International Travel

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 22 October 2020

What steps his Department is taking to reduce the duration of covid-19 quarantine required after international travel. (907931)

What steps his Department is taking to reduce the duration of covid-19 quarantine required after international travel. (907946)

The global travel taskforce is considering how to implement a testing regime for international arrivals to reduce self-isolation.

The restrictions on air travel have had many further consequences, not least for coach operators. When the pandemic first struck, the Government introduced a very generous package for coach operators that saved many businesses and jobs. Now that coach operators such as J&C Coaches in my Sedgefield constituency are back up and running again, the Government’s package has stopped. However, fleet insurance is back to normal, the vehicles all have to be taxed and the drivers are back to work. All the coach operators have to fund these expenses on very basic school contracts. There are no swimming baths, no Beamish, no Hadrian’s wall, no excursions, no football and no nights out in Darlington, Durham or Newcastle. Will the Secretary of State please encourage his right hon. Friend the Chancellor to find something from somewhere to support this industry that is part of the glue that connects our citizens?

I very much understand the pressures that the coach industry in particular is under, as I mentioned in a previous response. It is a fact that those parts of the economy, many of which my hon. Friend described, are not up and functioning right now, so the Government need to do things to provide support to the sector, which we have been doing across all UK businesses—in particular, through the 24 September winter economy plan from the Chancellor—to try to assist, while also recognising, as I know right hon. and hon. Members do across the House, that the Government do not have a magic-wand solution to ensure that business is running at its usual capacity while we are tackling covid. I referred earlier to the 3,000 coach operators. I understand the pressure they are under, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I are very much focused on other ways that we can find to assist the sector.

I have heard from a number of constituents in the travel and tourism industry who are very concerned about staying in business over the next six months. I therefore welcome my right hon. Friend’s recent proposal to reduce quarantine to seven days and on the use of testing capacity at major airports such as Heathrow. What can the Government do to help smaller regional airports, such as Southampton, to create their own testing capacity?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That links to the previous question inasmuch as we have to get this economy going if we are going to have to live with coronavirus for quite some time. We need to do that by ensuring that economic activity can continue and that people can continue to travel by coach, covid-safely, and by air. The global travel taskforce is working on the implementation of some really quite complex issues related to, for example—she mentioned testing at airports—whether testing at airports actually provides the solution. As we know, what is required at the moment, according to the best science, is still a period of self-isolation, followed by a test, which could take place either at an airport or perhaps even in a more convenient, more local location. That is what the global travel taskforce is working on with the airports, the travel sector and academics, as well as medical experts, in order to implement exactly that kind of system to assist the entire industry.