‘Draconian travel restrictions did more harm than good,’ claims Labour MP

‘We are the first major economy to get back to the kind of restriction-free travel we all enjoyed before Covid,’ stated transport secretary Grant Shapps

<p>Line time: the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, says processing at passport control will accelerate after the passenger locator form is dropped  </p>

Line time: the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, says processing at passport control will accelerate after the passenger locator form is dropped

A senior Labour MP has claimed that the British government’s Covid travel restrictions “did more harm than good”.

Ben Bradshaw was speaking in a debate after the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, announced all rules for travellers to the UK would end at 4am on Friday, 18 March.

Mr Bradshaw, who represents Exeter and sits on Transport Select Committee, said: “The growing evidence suggests that for countries like ours which was never going to have a zero Covid strategy, those draconian travel restrictions did more harm than good.”

He asked the transport secretary for an assurance that the future public enquiry into Covid would have “full access to all of the various and quite secretive committees that the government relied on when it imposed those travel restrictions”.

Mr Shapps assured him it would, saying: “Without learning the lessons of the past, we can never improve things for the future.”

Labour’s Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said: “The barrier to passengers booking holiday with confidence this spring and summer isn’t a passenger locator form – it is the historic collapse in living standards facing millions.

“The barrier will be from the record rise in energy bills in two weeks’ time, the brutal National Insurance hike.

“This country is facing the biggest decline in living standards since the 1950s, putting a holiday beyond the reach of many.”

The debate followed some searing criticism of the frequently changing travel restrictions – which, as recently as three months ago, involved hotel quarantine for holidaymakers returning from South Africa and self-isolation for all arrivals to the UK, whether or not they were vaccinated.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency, described the measures as “ill thought-through, shambles of government policies” that had “created enormous financial and emotional distress for consumers and set back travel firms by years”.

He said the UK had been left “as a laughing stock on the world stage”.

A UK airline chief executive told The Independent: “The restrictions slowed the spread of Covid and its variants by a matter of only a couple of days despite causing monumental economic damage to the industry, from which it will take years to recover and from which many people’s careers may never recover.”

The transport secretary said there were just “three more sleeps” until the restrictions ended.

“It’ll be the first time in two years that we’ll be able to enable frictionless journeys for passengers travelling to the UK,” he said.

“We are the first major economy to get back to the kind of restriction-free travel we all enjoyed before Covid.

“From 4am on Friday there will be no testing or quarantine requirements for any passengers.

“International travel is back.”

The transport secretary described the passenger locator form, which is being scrapped, as “a burden that has outlived its usefulness.”

In response to a question about UK Border Force staffing at airports from Huw Merriman, chair of the Transport Select Committee, Mr Shapps said that processing would be improved as a result of scrapping the unpopular online health form.

“On the e-Gates, not having to check a separate database for a passenger locator form saves up to six seconds per person,” he said.

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