Travel brightens our lives, provides livelihoods and brings people together.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” said the philosopher Blaise Pascal. Our propensity to wander the world during a global pandemic is now the subject of a government crackdown. Many people will applaud the new obligation to provide proof of eligibility to go aboard, and the impending introduction of hotel quarantine for arrivals to the UK from a “red list” of 33 countries.
But Roger Dawson is not among them. He lives in Suffolk and has a villa in Cyprus. He last visited it in November 2019. And, he says, with Soviet-style travel restrictions, he has no idea when he might be permitted to do so again.
“UK citizens now need to secure permission to leave the country, as they did in the USSR when exit visas were required. This is all said to be to prevent any virus mutations from entering the country. However, viruses constantly mutate. Therefore can there ever be an end date to these restrictions?”
Until 2020, the world of travel and the UK government kept a healthy distance apart.
It was a simple relationship. The chancellor collected a fortune from the taxes paid by people working in the UK’s then flourishing travel industry, as well as Air Passenger Duty from outbound holidaymakers and business travellers. The Civil Aviation Authority regulated air safety and consumer protection, and the Foreign Office provided consular care. Beyond that, Britain’s holiday firms, airlines and cruise lines were left to get on with delivering outstanding value. And everyone was happy.
Today, no one is happy. Ministers (and the Labour Party, and many members of the public) blame the traveller for the mess we are in.
“We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off where they are in the world – mainly in sunny parts of the world.”
Dr Dawson wonders: “Will all travel beyond these borders be forever prohibited? If not, what are the criteria for an end date? Does anyone know, or has anyone thought about it?”
For the sake of the good doctor, as well as the millions whose livelihoods depend on travel in and out of Britain, the government cannot continue to crush hopes with rule upon rule upon rule.
The world will soon start to open up. Where is the UK’s plan to do the same?