Of course a lot of travel is done for fun and enjoyment, and why not? One of the great pleasures of life in the modern world is the freedom to fly off to a totally different place, to experience a new culture, climate and landscape.
British people have always been adventurous voyagers, but in the past few decades easy travel has allowed far more of us to take our holidays abroad. So one of the strangest and most dispiriting effects of lockdown has been the almost total cessation of such travel, and the stifling closure of our borders.
Millions have accepted this, in the cause of controlling the virus, but how much longer must they do so?
By mid-May, immense numbers will have had both inoculations and will be even safer. So the case for an opening-up of travel is strong and growing stronger
The people of this country have responded to the pandemic with a great wave of unselfishness. They have accepted, with amazing patience, restriction after restriction on their lives
Then there are the other, more serious reasons for flying – especially staying in touch with close family. Huge numbers of people have been cut off from close relatives for painfully long periods, an unnatural and punishing separation which has caused a good deal of grief, and which cannot be shrugged off as trivial or frivolous.
And there are the economic benefits to this country of a flourishing travel industry, one which employs many thousands and helps to oil all the wheels of commerce. Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, today pleads eloquently in The Mail on Sunday for a safe but definite reopening of travel, preferably by late May.
He points out that aviation directly contributes an astonishing £22 billion to the UK economy each year.
So the time really has come to wonder how much longer the Government can maintain the iron-bound travel ban it currently insists on, and whether those advisers who still seek to delay the reopening of ports and airports should continue to dominate Whitehall discussions.
Every day, hundreds of thousands more are vaccinated. Those at greatest danger have been protected first. The fear of spreading infection has also been diminished. Even a single jab greatly reduces the risk that its recipient will either contract or pass on the virus.
By mid-May, immense numbers will have had both inoculations and will be even safer. So the case for an opening-up of travel is strong and growing stronger.
Obviously this should be limited to those countries which would welcome it (as many will). And it is surely not beyond the ability of the Government and airlines to devise a system which ensures that those who travel have either been immunised or have tested negative before they fly.
We have supported Boris Johnson solidly on his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, and very much continue to do so. And it is for the same reasons that we now suggest there is no longer a good justification for a general travel ban after May 17.
The time has come to prepare for the reopening of some destinations, at the same time introducing checks whereby travellers can be monitored for safety – either through vaccination or a recent negative test.
The people of this country have responded to the pandemic with a great wave of unselfishness. They have accepted, with amazing patience, restriction after restriction on their lives.
The awesome success of the vaccine has transformed the position. They now deserve the restoration of their freedom to travel, within sensible limits – most especially to be reunited with loved ones they have not seen for more than a year, but also because Britain as a whole needs some joy and sunshine after so many months of greyness and gloom.