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14 day quarantine will destroy travel industry in Northern Ireland, claims airport chief

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Consequences: Graham Keddie

Consequences: Graham Keddie

Consequences: Graham Keddie

Quarantine rules requiring overseas visitors to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving here will have "very severe economic and social consequences," it has been claimed.

Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said the quarantine plans had been met "with great disappointment and dismay" and had been imposed without consultation.

Overseas visitors will be able to fly into Northern Ireland from mid-June when easyJet resumes flights between Belfast International and Faro in Portgual.

Mr Keddie said: "These measures will have very severe economic and social consequences, not just on our business, but also on the wider aviation and tourism industry, as well as on all the other sectors that rely heavily on aviation connectivity.

"It is essential that public health is prioritised above all else.

"However, we need well-thought-out, workable measures with clear guidelines that can be enforced."

He said he would continue to work with industry trade body the Airport Operators Association (AoA) "to urge local and national government to remove this damaging and seemingly unworkable policy at a time when Europe is opening up".

Mr Keddie also slammed a difference in the regulations on each side of the border that he said gave the Republic's airports an advantage.

"Yet again Northern Ireland will be left at a serious disadvantage," he claimed.

"Those passengers transiting through airports in the Republic of Ireland and travelling to Northern Ireland will not be subject to the same quarantine measures.

That wil create a serious imbalance and further confusion at an already difficult time.

"It is difficult to see how this can be effectively enforced or will do anything other than destroy what's left of the travel and tourism industry."

Janice Gault, chief executive of the NI Hotels Federation, said quarantine would effectively "close down" the potential for international tourism during the summer period.

"Health and containment of the virus is paramount at this time," she said.

"But the introduction of a quarantine has serious implications for the wider tourism sector.

"The Northern Ireland Hotels Federation hopes that this will be a short-term measure, which will be reviewed as the pandemic subsides."

Budget airline Ryanair, which is due to resume flying to European destinations from Belfast International Airport next month, also lambasted the quarantine plan.

A spokesman said: "This 14- day UK quarantine is ineffective, completely useless, and will have no effect on British passengers, who will largely ignore it.

"At a time when the medical science across Europe in countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Germany have safely removed all inbound visitor restrictions, the imposition of this completely defective quarantine in the UK is utterly useless and a total waste of time.

"Once they have arrived at their 'quarantine address', the UK Government will phone less than one per cent of these visitors, but only on their mobile phone, which can be answered from any golf course, beach, park or indeed supermarket across the UK, thereby rendering this quarantine utterly ineffective and useless.

"For the UK to be imposing a 14-day quarantine on inbound visitors when it already has one of the worst Covid infection and death rates in Europe is closing the door long after the horse has bolted.

"Most visitors to the UK from Europe are arriving from countries with a lower R-rate than the UK."

Belfast Telegraph