The UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the government’s decision to not require all travellers entering the UK to take pre-departure tests.
Shapps suggested that jumping the gun on mandating pre-departure tests would unnecessarily “kill off the travel sector again.”
After the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus was discovered in South Africa, the UK government has reintroduced mandatory self-isolation and a post-arrival test for fully vaccinated arrivals who do not come from a country on the “red list.”
Only British or Irish citizens and residents are allowed to travel from the red-list countries, and those to do are subject to mandatory hotel quarantine, a pre-departure test, and a number of post-arrival tests.
Asked if he’s “keen” on the idea of pre-departure tests for all international arrivals, Shapps told The Telegraph’s “Chopper’s Politics” podcast that while “lots of countries do require” the tests, the UK is not requiring it at the moment.
“Do you want to kill off the travel sector—again—without knowing that you need to? Or do you want to take the right level of calibrated response? And this government thinks we should take a calibrated response which doesn’t take us right back to the beginning of this,” Shapps said.
Travellers from a red-list destination and all other adult travellers who are not considered fully vaccinated are still required to take a pre-departure test.
Asked if unvaccinated people will ‘find life increasingly difficult” in the UK, the transport secretary said he believes COVID-19 certificates will inevitably be the “norm” in international travel, drawing a parallel with yellow fever vaccination as a requirement of entry in countries over the years.
“Can you see between now and next summer, Spain saying: ‘Don’t worry?’ It’s not going to happen, is it? So clearly, you need your booster [for foreign holidays],” he said.
Shapps urges people to keep booking their holidays as long as they can get flexible tickets and accommodation in case their plans have to change on short notice.
As of Friday afternoon, 59 Omicron cases have been identified in Britain. England and Scotland each have 29 cases, while Wales detected its first case on Friday.
The case in Wales is found to be linked to international travel, but the cases in Scotland are linked to “several different sources including a Steps concert at the Hydro on Nov. 22,” according to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.