The UK’s travel quarantine policy is a “shambles of mismanagement”, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr O’Leary said the UK and Irish Governments “stand indicted”.
He said the UK quarantine was “lumpy and defective” and that the UK needed to use testing at airports to help the safe return of international travel.
Boris Johnson has said travel quarantines are “vital” to fight Covid-19 as testing can be unreliable.
The policy requires travellers to high-risk countries to isolate for two weeks on their return to the UK.
Mr O’Leary described the record of the UK government as “pretty poor in almost all respects of dealing with Covid”.
“They were late into lockdown, they were late into testing, they were late into face masks, now they’re pooh-poohing testing. Testing is the only way forward here.”
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He cited the Italian and German governments, who allowed intra-European travel from 1 July, as managing the virus well thanks to “a much more aggressive test and trace system”.
Mr O’Leary said he supported a two-test system, where a passenger would be tested on arrival at an airport and then tested five days later, and if they got two negative tests they would leave quarantine early.
UK government sources have indicated that they are looking at system where the two tests would be eight days apart to further minimise the risk of “false negative” results.
But Mr O’Leary said a two-test system mitigated against business travel, noting: “The City of London depends on this type of travel.”
He also said that the UK tourism sector needed European visitors, and he questioned why the UK was relying on a “failed quarantine” policy rather than a better test-and-trace system and testing at airports.
“You’re much more likely to get Covid in Bolton rather than Barcelona,” he said.
Asked whether he had spoken to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps about all of this he said: “Honestly, talking to Grant Shapps is a waste of time… he is the messenger boy for whatever goes on in Number 10 Downing Street.”
When asked if he had talked to anyone in Number 10, Mr O’Leary said: “I wouldn’t waste my time talking to anyone in the UK government at the moment given their abysmal record at mismanaging Covid.”
He claimed that short-haul intra-European business travel and visits “will return very quickly, once there is an identifiable vaccine”.
Last week the prime minister appeared to pour cold water over the idea of tests at airports, saying it would only identify 7% of Covid-19 cases.
“That’s why the quarantine system that we have has got to be an important part of our repertoire, of our toolbox, in fighting Covid,” he said.
“What we don’t want to see is reinfection coming in from abroad and quarantine is a vital part of that.”
- Coronavirus pandemic
- Air travel
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