April 22, 2020
To help protect the NHS, Migration Watch UK has called today for an age limit for visitors to the UK. We recommend that it be set at 50 with special arrangements for senior business visitors.
The NHS is already under severe strain and it is a key government objective to sustain it. The number of visitors to the UK runs into the millions each year.
Any who fall ill with the Coronavirus while they are here would be entitled to medical treatment, including hospital admission if necessary. The likelihood of needing hospital care increases considerably with age. For those aged less than 50 it is less than 5%, for those in their fifties it doubles to 10%, rising to nearly 25% for those in their 70s.
It surely makes sense not to admit visitors who, if they should fall ill with the Coronavirus, would have a significant risk of needing hospital treatment.
The infection is now worldwide and is likely to spread rapidly in Asia, Latin America and Africa where, due to health or social factors, public health and medical facilities will struggle to cope.
For the time being passenger flows to the UK are severely limited by the collapse of air travel and by much reduced rail and ferry services from the continent but in recent years there have been nearly 14 million visitor admissions per year from outside the EU. However, now is the time to consider who, in the current unprecedented situation, should be allowed access to the UK.
The public are largely unaware that nationals of around 50 countries, with a total population of around one billion, are currently entitled to travel to the UK without a visa which is granted on arrival and is valid for up to six months. These “non-visa nationals” account for nearly ten million of 14 million non-EEA visitor admissions.
Extending the requirement to apply in advance for visitor visa to nationals of these countries would allow an age limit to be applied to all non-EEA visitors and would allow the tourist industry to begin its recovery while protecting the NHS from additional pressures.
The total number of passenger arrivals from the EEA is even larger – 40 million or so in recent years – but similar action for EEA citizens is not possible during the present transition period.
Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said:
Until there is a vaccination against the Coronavirus its presence transforms the context for border controls. The government must now work towards reviving the tourist industry while minimising any increased pressure on the NHS that might result.