Changes show the importance of global action on Covid

Felixstowe beach

The continuing problems with foreign travel should be good news for domestic tourism in places like Felixstowe. - Credit: Gregg Brown

I am not entirely without sympathy for the overseas travel industry, particularly the package holiday sector, regarding the situation it now faces with the effective ban on foreign holidays.

I can see it must be very difficult to be in an industry where you have no idea when you can operate again - and you are, in effect, only staying in business thanks to banks continuing to support an industry that has effectively lost its income.

However the intemperate, inaccurate, and frankly unsafe comments from some in the industry over the last few days has not done themselves or their sector any favours at all.

When Portugal was taken off the green list, the R-rate in the country was 1.7 - higher than in the UK. And there were real fears about a new mutation of the Delta variant that had been detected there.

There was criticism of the government for acting too quickly and closing the borders in four days when there had been suggestions of a 14-day warning of any closures.

I have to say I never believed the government would allow a 14-day grace period, especially not after its slowness over stopping travel to and from India allowed the Delta variant to become prevalent in parts of the UK.

And for all those people who seemed surprised about their holiday plans being abruptly changed, maybe they should have cast their minds back a few months to when government ministers were warning people against booking foreign trips.

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They made the point that situations could change - and change quickly. For those who felt they absolutely must have a foreign holiday, you could book for some places but there was never any guarantee that they would remain open.

Anyone who was spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on a foreign holiday really should have done due diligence and read all the warnings that there could be no guarantees this year.

I know there is talk of staff shortages in the UK tourist industry this year, but I can't help feeling the industry should be able to really make the best of what this country has to offer in 2021.

Framlingham Castle.

Will tourist attractions like Framlingham Castle see an influx of domestic tourists this year? - Credit: Gregg Brown

Whatever does, or does not, happen with further relaxations on Monday week, the current situation already allows most tourist businesses the chance to operate - albeit with some changes.

Certainly life does feel a bit more normal - I've returned to the cinema and started going on days out a bit more. If you're happy to stay in the UK life is becoming much more relaxed.

It's good to be able to pop round and see friends and relatives without having to check that it will be fine enough to sit in the garden! 

But before international travel can become the norm again we really do have to get the vaccine rolled out around the world. I understand the sensitivities of people who don't want us to talk about "the Indian variant" or "The Brazilian Variant," but using those names is instructive.

It shows that new variants tend to emerge in parts of the work where there are high levels of infection and low levels of vaccination - the Kent variant emerged in this country two months before the first vaccinations started.

There is no better example to show that the world is a small place - and how those of us lucky enough to live in rich countries need to share some of our wealth with the poorest if we want to enjoy all the benefits of that wealth.

Part of the reason that holidays in Portugal have had to be cancelled and people have had to fly back home is because a possible new mutation of the virus first identified in Nepal has been found in Portugal.

We don't know very much about it. It might not have any unique characteristics - but until we know, it's better to be safe than sorry. And the speed with which viruses can travel around the world shows just how dangerous they can potentially be.

There will be more of these threatening to put the brakes on international travel as long as billions of people around the world are vulnerable to the disease.

So sending vaccines to developing countries isn't just an act of altruism. It is also a very important part of getting back to a normal life.

In a very real sense sending phials of this golden liquid to Kathmandu maybe just what is needed to protect your week in the Algarve next year!