Edinburgh airport’s boss had blasted hotel quarantine as something “that won’t work” and “doing nothing but enormous damage”.
Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh airport chief executive, said aviation was trying to manage “two different risks and government are not differentiating between the two”.
The first was about stopping transmission via separation, with lockdown and the vaccine part of that. “I think we are winning that war,” he said, speaking during a TTG roundtable.
But this had been combined with the problem of new variants. “We have got the measures to stop the transmission of what we know about, but hotel quarantine and this concern for new variants is attempting to do biosecurity for something that has not yet arrived and we are trying to keep out, but it won’t work.”
He said current travel exemptions meant variants could never be eliminated.
“So what we’re doing, I would argue, is we’re taking a very lazy political place which is let’s keep the ‘dirty foreigners’ out as a clear way of showing action; doing nothing but doing enormous damage.
“The fact that it’s also been treated very different in Scotland from the rest of the UK just makes an absolute mockery of that.”
He described a passenger arriving at Heathrow from Pakistan via Doha who then took the train to Scotland without needing to go into hotel quarantine. “If he had flown into Edinburgh, he would have had to go into 14-day quarantine in a hotel.
“So clearly that doesn’t work in any shape or form…and yet we’re telling airlines we’re closed for business.”
Scots were learning to avoid the hotel quarantine requirement by flying from England, he said.
“EasyJet and other airlines are telling us they have more Scots booking flights out of Manchester and Newcastle than they have out of Edinburgh and Glasgow. What is that achieving?”
He said mixed messages would prompt “bad behaviours from people trying to get around the rules because nobody trusts them, nobody understands them, and they are not achieving anything”.
Dewar warned a “managed travel” approach with testing and vaccine passports needed to be adopted “or we will be left behind”.