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LETTER: Compare efforts to bring home stranded travellers

Readers' letters | Published:

A reader raises concerns over the reports around how the UK got citizens back to the country during the coronavirus outbreak.

An aircraft repatriating British people to the UK from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus in Yokohama, Japan, arrives at MoD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.

Many British citizens were stranded abroad earlier this year as the coronavirus outbreak took hold.

There were countless distressing stories about people unable to get home and frightened they would run out of money or vital medicines. This paper kindly printed a letter from me expressing concern for such stranded Britons and pointing out that Germany had repatriated far more people than the UK on special charter flights.

On May 30, Mr Keith Jones replied saying that the Government had made “outstanding efforts... with over 1.3 million returned plus 19,000 from cruise ships”.

A Parliamentary statement on April 29 by Nigel Adams, a Minister, said that certainly, at the end of April, 1.3 million people had made it back to the UK, but this was essentially under their own steam. The Government “worked...to keep routes open” but the 1.3 million came home on normal commercial flights. Many had to cope with cancellations, inflated fares and chaotic booking systems. Only 1,500 of the 19,000 cruise ship passengers mentioned were actually brought back by Government chartered flights.

Mr Jones is unlikely to be responsible for the claims in his letter. It apparently originated from a Press Association feed and was repeated in the press. As my father used to say, don’t believe everything you read!

Mr Jones also complained that it was unfair to compare the UK with Germany because Germany does not have the “colonies and spread of countries that have a relationship with the UK”. Certainly more UK than German citizens were abroad at the start of the crisis.

However, the crucial comparison here is between the efforts made by the UK Government and the German Government. At the time of my letter, the UK Government had only brought back 2,800 people on specially chartered repatriation flights. Germany had brought home 60,000 German nationals from 60 countries on 240 special charter flights. On April 29, Nigel Adams said Britain had brought back 19,000 British citizens from 20 different countries on specially chartered flights – in other words, compared to Germany, a third as many people from a third of the number of countries. All these figures are from the Government website and in Guardian articles. Readers can make up their own minds about the UK Government’s efforts and commitment to helping stranded British citizens, and about which Government, German or UK, is more concerned for the well being of its citizens.

J. King, Walsall

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