An overwhelming majority of Brits think that people have been travelling while knowing they have Covid-19, according to research released today (7 November) by World Travel Market London, the leading global event for the travel industry.
A survey of 2,000 people found that almost half (46.4%) of respondents said “Yes, definitely,” when asked: “Do you think people travel while knowing they have Covid?”.
A further 41% replied “Yes, maybe”.
Just 6.3% said “No, not at all,” and another 6.3% said they didn’t know.
It means almost nine in ten (87.4%) replied yes when asked the question by pollsters.
The survey was conducted during the first restriction-free summer season since 2019, with travellers able to enter and leave the UK without worrying about Covid rules – unless they were visiting a destination which still had curbs in place.
Covid-19 testing and quarantine rules for returning to England were removed in March, in time for the Easter getaway and paving the way for a return to normality.
Pent-up demand meant thousands of Brits travelled overseas for the first time since the start of the pandemic – and the survey responses suggest most of us think many would have been reluctant to sacrifice their holiday even if they had symptoms of Covid.
It was a marked contrast to the summer 2021 season, with widespread confusion over the UK government’s Covid travel restrictions, traffic light system and quarantine rules.
A similar survey for WTM London last year showed that the traffic light system had put two-thirds of consumers off travelling overseas.
Ministers in 2021 had repeatedly urged Brits to avoid overseas travel to tackle rising Covid rates – but this year saw holidaymakers ditch their masks and coronavirus tests to head to the sun. Even the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson jetted off twice, with a sunshine break in Greece and a honeymoon in Slovenia.
And summer hotspots such as Greece and Turkey saw visitor numbers rebound quickly, thanks in part to relaxing restrictions earlier than other Mediterranean countries.
There were some media reports and anecdotal evidence of Covid spreading among travellers during summer 2022 – perhaps thanks to mixing at airports or in resorts – but it would appear that widespread vaccine boosters and immunity from past bouts of coronavirus meant most cases were mild and numbers have not soared.
Even US first lady Jill Biden tested positive for Covid while on holiday in South Carolina in August.
Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at World Travel Market London, said:
“The end of Covid restrictions and free tests in the UK undoubtedly meant that people who had the infection were mixing with the wider community – whether domestically or overseas.
“It’s impossible to know how many of them would have set off on their travels knowing they had Covid but the results of our survey suggest most of us (87%) think that would probably have been the case.
“However, thanks to the vaccination campaigns here and abroad, a large proportion are protected from the worst effects of the virus, and we seem to have struck a balance between keeping people safe and allowing life to resume, and in turn enable the travel community to soar back to pre-pandemic levels.
“As we look forward to a strong summer in 2023, we hope that this sense of normality in travel will continue and encourage even more consumers to book that long-awaited overseas vacation – thereby helping the economies around the world to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”