[UPDATE] UK government to outline quarantine plan for arrivals passengers

By Andrew Pentol and Luke Barras-hill |

Tests-pre-flight-Gatwick

The government has confirmed a plan to quarantine arrivals passengers to the UK.

As expected, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that airline travellers arriving into the country will be quarantined.

However, he stopped short of announcing how long the quarantine would last during a televised speech this evening at 19:00 (UK GMT).

In a bold and charismatic address to the nation, Johnson said: “To prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.

“And it is because of your efforts to get the ‘R’ [infection rate] down and the number of infections down here, that this measure will now be effective.”

MORE DETAIL EXPECTED

Further detail is expected to be unveiled by the government in due course and TRBusiness will bring you reaction as necessary.

It is likely such information will emerge in the coming day(s), with a UK Transport Select Committee session examining the issues facing the airline industry, including British Airways, and featuring International Airlines Group (IAG) CEO Willie Walsh taking place on Monday 11 May at 10:00 UK GMT.

This is scheduled ahead of a coronavirus (Covid-19) update from the PM in the House of Commons at 15:30 the same day.

As reported earlier, it was understood the PM would outline a 14-day quarantine period for travellers entering the UK from any country except the Republic of Ireland to deter against the threat posed by a possible second wave of infection.

This followed leaked reports from government sources run by a number of international media outlets, including TRBusiness, in dialogue with UK aviation sources.

It is believed that under the new quarantine protocol, which is expected to be implemented at the end of the month, people arriving in the UK (including returning UK citizens) will have to self-isolate at a private residence.

Spot checks could be undertaken by the authorities and those breaking the rules could be fined up to £1,000 ($1,240) and face deportation, it has been claimed.

As mentioned above, it remains unclear how long the quarantine could be in place and whether non-UK residents will be allowed to stay in rented private accommodation.

It is also uncertain whether people arriving in the UK via other modes of transport such as train or ferry will have to enter quarantine.

Boris-Johnson-Covid

UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson has urged the British people to ‘stay alert, control the virus and save lives’.

COVID ‘ALERT SYSTEM’

Speculation surrounding the UK travel quarantine was first highlighted last month and resurfaced ahead of the PM’s important speech today.

The address included a conditional plan to ease lockdown measures across the country, in place since March.

Johnson announced a new Covid-19 ‘Alert System’ based around five stages tied to the ‘R’ level.

From Wednesday (13 May), the government will loosen restrictions on outdoor exercise.

Primary schools and some shops may reopen in June with sections of the hospitality industry following in July.

“I must stress that all of this is conditional, it all depends on a series of big ‘Ifs’, said Johnson. “It depends on all of us – the entire country – to follow the advice, to observe social distancing, and to keep that R down.

“We will be monitoring our progress locally, regionally, and nationally and if there are outbreaks, if there are problems, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes.

“We have been through the initial peak – but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.”

Heathrow arrivals image

Those breaking the rules on arrival to the UK could face £1,000 fines and possible deportation, it has been claimed. Source: London Heathrow Airport

As extensively reported by TRBusiness, UK airports have been working with the government for some time to ensure people can travel safely in the future.

Arriving and departing passengers, for example, at Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports are being advised to cover their faces and wear gloves under a new pilot scheme from operator Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

MAG will also carry out limited temperature screening trials to test equipment in the coming weeks. The trials will not be used to determine travel eligibility.

More recently, London Heathrow revealed it is to trial new technologies and processes to reduce the risk of Covid-19. This was announced after Gatwick Airport Chief Executive Stuart Wingate called for the UK government to introduce Covid-19 tests for passengers 48 hours before flying once the lockdown is lifted.

The quarantine measure in question has drawn consternation from the UK aviation sector, who have criticised what they see as significant damage to the sector as a result of the move.

In comments addressing speculation over the two-week quarantine shared with TRBusiness prior to Johnson’s speech, Karen Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association said: “Quarantine would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy. Aviation is an enabler for many other industries, such as manufacturers, tourism and the hospitality industry.

“If the government believe quarantine is medically necessary, then it should be applied on a selective basis following the science. There should be a clear exit strategy and the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated.”

MAG-facemask-advisory

UK airports have been working on plans to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.

The government should also commit to a weekly review of the quarantine measures, should they be implemented, according to Dee.

It should then publish the evidence that informs the outcome of the review.

“This will provide confidence to consumers and businesses that the impact will be limited, but also that it will be safe to travel again once the measure is lifted,” said Dee.

She added: “Airports have done their utmost to stay open through this crisis to provide vital services to communities — from facilitating freight and repatriations to air ambulance, police, Royal Mail and HM Coastguard services — but cannot survive a further protracted period without passengers that would be the result of quarantine measures.

GOVERNMENT URGED TO PROTECT JOBS

“If quarantine is a necessary tool for fighting Covid-19, then the government should act decisively to protect the hundreds of thousands of airport-related and travel-related jobs across the UK.”

Dee suggests government measures should include the immediate relief of business rates for airports and related service providers and relief from Civil Aviation Authority charges for the whole aviation sector.

“They should also commit to extending the Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of the quarantine measures with a tapered ending linked to aviation’s recovery and stand ready with liquidity support beyond current lending and financing schemes,” she said.

Gawtick arrivals

Quarantine would have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry and wider economy, according to Karen Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association. Source: Gatwick Airport

Asked about the proposed UK quarantine plan during the government’s daily Covid-19 briefing yesterday (9 May), UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “People travelling from Wuhan, Iran and South Korea were quarantined in January and February. It makes sense to look at the borders.”

Looking ahead to the possible implementation of the 14-day quarantine, Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, says public health must be priority. A statement received by TRBusiness said: “We need to see the detail of what they are proposing and will continue to be guided by Sage advice.

“We will be asking for assurances that this decision has been led by the science and that government has a credible exit plan, with weekly reviews to ensure the restrictions are working and still required.

“Alongside this, we also need to see a number of new support measures to see airlines through this period, so that we still have a UK aviation sector once the quarantine period is lifted.”

Karen Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operators Association recently took part in this publication’s Adapt & Survive Skype video series. Click here for the interview.

 

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