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UK government 'does not know' if their £500 million COVID-19 travel traffic light system worked

The UK government “does not know” if their £500 million COVID-19 travel traffic light system worked.

The three tier system - which gave each country a colour dependent on how it was managing the pandemic - was brought in May 2021 and is still unsure how well it worked at slowing the spread of the virus.

Red list country arrivals needed to stay - and fork out - for a hotel to quarantine in for 10 days minimum at a cost of at least £2,000 a person.

Amber list country arrivals needed to test and self-isolate at home while green list country arrivals did not need to do anything when landing in the UK.

Travel requirements for testing and hotel quarantine changed 10 times between February 2021 and January 2022, according to a report from the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. MPs sitting on the committee believe the government does not know if the costly policy - which taxpayers spent £329 million for - was worth it.

The report said: "Managing cross-border travel was an essential part of health measures introduced by government during the pandemic.

"Despite spending at least £486 million on implementing its traffic light system to manage travel during the pandemic, government did not track its spending on managing cross-border travel or set clear objectives, so does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused."

Dame Meg Hillier, the committee’s chair said: "The approach to border controls and quarantine caused huge confusion and disruption with 10 changes in a year. And now we can see that it is not clear what this achieved.

"We can be clear on one thing - the cost to the taxpayer in subsidising expensive quarantine hotels, and more millions of taxpayers' money blown on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and precious few checks or proof that it was working to protect public health.

"We don't have time and it is not enough for government to feed these failures into its delayed public inquiry.

"It is not learning lessons fast enough from the pandemic and is missing opportunities to react quickly to future emergencies or even current events like new variants of COVID or the spread of monkeypox."

Travel experts have condemned the government and their slapstick approach to travel measures.

The CEO of the PC Agency, Paul Charles said the government - which was led by outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson - should be "ashamed of the suck-it-and-see approach" to travel measures.

He added that the "constantly changing policies" were costly and also "hurt UK plc's image around the world".

Paul said: "Urgent steps need to be taken to ensure the country's borders are kept open should another variant emerge, and that government has a more positive policy in place to enable airlines, airports and other travel businesses to keep functioning so as to protect jobs and livelihoods."

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