The government spent £486 million on a “traffic light system” to manage the spread of Covid in international travel, but it “doesn’t know” if it worked.
The frequently changing restrictions on international travel caused “huge confusion and disruption” yet the government “does not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth it” a new report from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has found.
The government changed the rules on international travel 10 times in 11 months, but “did not clearly communicate changes to either carriers or the public”. This left just 40 per cent of the public aware of the rules on self-isolation, and gave the travel industry little time to adapt.
Under the traffic light system, every country was put on the red, amber or green list, which set out the rules for arrivals from that country on testing and quarantine. This was replaced with a simpler system of simply “red list and rest of world” in September 2021.
“The approach to border controls and quarantine caused huge confusion and disruption with 10 changes in a year. And now we can see that it is not clear what this achieved,” said Dame Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC.
“We can be clear on one thing – the cost to the taxpayer in subsidising expensive quarantine hotels, and more millions of taxpayers’ money blown on measures with no apparent plan or reasoning and precious few checks or proof that it was working to protect public health.