BALPA has welcomed an article by Willie Walsh in The Times newspaper on 1 September 2020, in which he urges Britain to take down its ‘closed sign’ and use effective Covid testing as an alternative to punitive quarantine measures. Willie Walsh is chief executive of the International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways amongst other airlines.
We’ve had serious disagreements with Willie Walsh and BA management over the years, but on this, he is absolutely right. Back in June I said that the then-proposed quarantine measures would be “…like hanging up a ‘Britain is closed’ sign and the whole economy will lose out as a result”.
Walsh is right: the closed sign needs to come down. The travel and tourism industry, so vital to the UK economy, is dying before our eyes. And thousands of jobs are being lost. Passenger confidence is suffering because, perfectly reasonably, people don’t want to be confined for 14 days on their return.
We understand the public health imperative, but there are alternatives available: look around the world at effective testing measures which could and be used rather than this blunt tool.
It is clear that the UK Government should support this industry which was the first into and will likely be the last one out of the current crisis. And at the very least they should stop making matters worse.