New curbs on social gatherings to control the spread of coronavirus are not designed to further burden the travel industry, prime minister Boris Johnson has said.
In an address to the nation on Wednesday (9 September) in which he announced a massive £100 billion "moonshot" testing effort, Johnson said liberating people to fly was an "absolute priority for the government".
Johnson also intimated the government’s renewed focus on mass testing could form part of efforts to ease quarantine measures and other border controls.
Hugo Gye, deputy political editor at the i newspaper, told Johnson the new curbs on social gatherings were "another blow for the travel industry", adding: "With that in mind, are you hoping to use your moonshot testing plan to change, reduce or remove the quarantine requirements at the border?"
In response, Johnson said: "The measures we are announcing are certainly not intended to cause any extra burdens for the travel industry, and I really appreciate the difficulties that industry has been going through.
"The aviation sector is of colossal importance to our country, I think we have the third biggest aviation sector anywhere in the world. We want to get people flying as fast and as efficiently as we can."
On what effects the new testing regime could have on travel, Johnson added: "And yes, of course, we’re going to look at all the ways we possibly can with new technology, with better testing, to liberate people to fly in the way that they want to, that’s an absolute priority for the government."
The government’s new "rule of six", which restricts most gatherings to a maximum of six people, is – however – likely to impact some people’s travel plans, and Johnson has insisted the new rules would be enforced strictly.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said while an understandable move to protect public health, the rules would "likely disrupt many holidays in England that have already been paid for" and leave people with questions about whether they will get their money back.
“Following the CMA’s intervention earlier this year on UK holiday accommodation cancellations and refunds, anyone with a booking that cannot go ahead as a result of lockdown laws should be entitled to a full refund," said Boland.
"Holiday providers should refund any affected customers to prevent anyone being left out of pocket for obeying the law, and the regulator must be ready to come down strongly on any accommodation providers failing to do so."