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Gloucestershire Business News

Government urged to rethink quarantine rules

Business West has joined bodies representing business, education and employment in calling for a rethink in the Government's quarantine rules for travellers arriving in the UK.

The body representing the region's Chambers of Commerce has joined the likes of UKHospitality and Universities UK to write an open letter to the Home, Foreign and Transport Secretaries which was published in the Financial Times today.

The letter said: " Businesses across the country rely on the UK being connected to the global economy.

"Since March, international travel has slowed to a trickle. To the credit of companies up and down the country, not least in the aviation sector, the movement of essential goods has not been affected.

"However, as we look to recover from the economic shock that Covid-19 has delivered, it will be vital that we start to open the UK up to our trading partners.

It continued: "Over 1.5 million jobs across the UK are supported by air transport and more than 40% of our trade with non-EU countries travels by plane.

"There are whole sectors of the UK economy - from SMEs to large employers - that simply won't recover and thrive without international connections.

"Our manufacturers rely on air connections to export goods, our world-class universities get around £6.9billion a year from international students, our tourism industry accounts for more than seven per cent of the UK economy and much of our hospitality sector relies on international visitors.

"These are some of the UK's world-beating businesses, providing jobs and opportunity in every nation and region of the country, and they need urgent clarity on when they will be able to get flying again."

The letter urged the Government to set out an integrated plan that includes:

A framework for establishing travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements with a clear set of risk-based criteria so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled reopening.

A timeline for returning to risk-based travel advice from the Foreign Office.

A comprehensive approach to health screening for arrivals into the UK to help control the virus over the coming months.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, was among the signatories of the letter.

He said: "While the response from government, particularly the work of Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to the coronacirus crisis has been sure footed and helped boost business confidence, its decision to impose quarantine restrictions on all international visitors looks like a misstep.

"It is difficult to see the scientific rationale to this policy, and it appears likely to turn away visitors and make it harder for local firms to strike out for greater international connections and secure the new business that will help drive recovery.

"We are asking for the Government to instead seek air corridors with countries with low infection rates, so that we take a science-based approach to re-opening that minimises risk but still allows economic activities to resume."

He continued: "Many of our key local sectors rely on international connectivity - from our badly hit domestic tourism industry, our education sector of universities and language schools, and our creative, tech and aerospace firms.

"A blanket approach will impose large real and psychological barriers for the international elements of economic recovery, and we urge the government to recalibrate to a smarter system."

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