June 16, 2021 - 7:00am

Susan Michie’s recent interview with Freddie Sayers was illuminating, focusing on (among other things) face masks, test, trace and isolate, and pandemic responses around the world.

What was perhaps most interesting, however, was the discussion around borders. When asked about whether there could be a long term shift towards tighter travel restrictions, Michie did not give an equivocal answer: “What I do hope is that
 there is more of a global way of looking at travel
.Air travel is one of the biggest contributors to global warming”.

Clearly, for some, this crisis represents a way to further other agendas. Climate change is an ongoing concern, and it is apparent that some would like to capitalise on the disruption caused by the pandemic to encourage fundamental changes to the way we travel. Michie is not the only scientist to voice these beliefs; in an article submitted to the BMJ, Deenan Pillay, a member of the so-called Independent SAGE committee, argued:

We should reduce the amount of air travel not only because of Covid-19 but also because of the detrimental impact that this has on our climate
.The aviation industry’s current enthusiasm to resume international air travel and overseas holidays, and to expand airports needs to be checked. It flies in the face of the twin needs to control international virus transmission and tackle the climate emergency and environmental degradation.
- Deenan Pillay

This mission creep on curtailing our freedoms is concerning. While the general public may sign up to short term restrictions for the pandemic’s sake, long term “population-wide behavioural changes” (as Michie terms it) are another thing altogether. This is a bait-and-switch that will not only result in the decimation of the travel industry, but threatens to return going abroad to the preserve of the rich. There’s no question that climate change represents a real and significant threat to humanity, but using Covid to leverage such sweeping changes is disingenuous and underhanded.

Any discussion on changes to travel in order combat climate change must take place openly on its own merits, while also accounting for what we will be sacrificing. We live in a global society, and travel is fundamental component of that. Families, friends, and careers now span borders — to restrict that would have significant consequences to our way of life. Considering the huge impact, it is unnerving to see people attempt to use Covid restrictions as a Trojan horse to bring in such massive changes.

Amy Jones is an anonymous doctor who has a background in Philosophy & Bioethics.