British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference in London on January 15. Dominic Lipinski / WPA Pool / Getty Images
When the British Prime Minister addressed the nation on December 20, the news was bad enough: Christmas had been canceled.
Boris Johnson put the country under severe new restrictions, blaming a new variant of the disease that had spread to London and south-east England since September.
But suddenly it got worse. Country by country, the borders for flights from Great Britain were closed to restrict the new variant to “Plague Island”, as the New York Times called it.
As the ferry connections across the canal were blocked, trucks carrying goods to the continent drove for miles along the highways. Eventually a local airport in Kent was converted into a parking lot for 4,000 trucks. Nothing could get into Great Britain either. It was, the wagons said, a foretaste of what a deal-free Brexit would look like.
This no-deal was averted – the government signed an agreement with the EU on December 24th. But the crisis is far from over.
British travelers are still banned from much of the world – including EU countries – due to the native variant.
And although the UK was the first country in the world to start a vaccine rollout, its good news was tarnished by the January 13 report that the death toll from Covid-19 had exceeded 100,000. Two days later, the government announced that it would cut its last remaining “travel corridors”.
Inbound travel is a lucrative business for the UK – prior to Covid, Visit Britain forecast 32.3 million visitors would pump £ 24.7 billion ($ 33.6 billion) into the economy in 2020.
In 2020 there was a 76% decrease in visitors and an 80% decrease. The tourism bureau is forecasting 16.9 million visits and 9 billion pounds ($ 12.2 billion) in spending in 2021: only 41% and 32% of the 2019 figures, respectively. But of course that is when people come. Who wants to go on vacation to “Plague Island”?
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