Stenhousemuir travel agent calls for airport coronavirus testing to help 'ignored' industry

A Stenhousemuir travel agent has claimed questions posed by the industry over support amid the coronavirus pandemic are still being ignored by the Scottish Government.

By Jonathon Reilly
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 12:30 pm

Earlier this month John Barr, owner of Stelar Travel, expressed his frustration over what he says is a lack of financial assistance for businesses like his own.

Mr Barr made a plea for a “nuanced policy” to be introduced to help travel firms cope with having few customers and a shortage of holiday destinations to offer to potential holidaymakers.

However, his initial appeal was met with a response from the Scottish Government that only reiterated its call for people not to book non-essential travel overseas.

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John Barr, owner of Stelar Travel in Stenhousemuir, has called on the Scottish Government to do more to help the country's travel industry deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Angered by Holyrood’s position, Mr Barr has again called for more to be done to sustain a sector that draws in almost £2 billion a year and supports more than 26,000 jobs.

He said: “We need to know that there will be a nuanced approach to travel once they ‘deem it safe’ to do so. They have already made a precedent for this by adding Madeira and the Azores to the safe travel list.

“They need to come out and say whether there will be a testing protocol put in place at Scottish airports so every arriving passenger is tested and then again five days later which would negate the need for the 14-day quarantine.

“We are aware discussions are currently ongoing on this but it needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency.

“That does not detract from the fact there has been absolutely no financial support for the industry from the Scottish Government, while the hospitality sector has been given £40 million in the circuit breaker restrictions alone.

“The Scottish Government has a chance to show what real support looks like. We are a viable industry bringing in nearly £2 billion pounds a year to the coffers but with government restrictions we are essentially hamstrung at the moment.”

Despite calls from Scottish travel trade body ABTA for airport testing to become the norm, Holyrood has confirmed it has no immediate plan to end its current quarantine system.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We fully understand industry concerns and will continue to explore whether there is a better balance around quarantine, but we are clear that the risk to public health must be minimised.

“We are not yet satisfied that moving from quarantine to testing would provide enough protection – people in the early stages of incubation of the virus could test negative and go on to develop the virus and spread it.

“There are a number of logistical and clinical considerations to be resolved, and the Scottish Government and industry agree any potential impacts to existing testing capacity must be carefully considered.

“However, we are continuing to engage with airport representatives on how testing at airports could work and to assess and understand the impact on public health.

“If we don't keep the virus under control, we make life even harder for the economy and particular sectors. As discussions continue, we will seek to find a balance that manages to weigh up both the public health and economic arguments.

“We have moved quickly to support businesses, including those in the travel sector, and our total package for businesses during this unprecedented economic crisis now exceeds £2.3 billion.”

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