The UK government has announced further details on new measures at the UK border to protect against a second wave of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).
Speaking during a Covid-19 government briefing on 22 May, Home Secretary Priti Patel said anyone entering the UK from 8 June (including UK citizens) must self-isolate for 14 days.
Under the new plan, checks will be carried out at the UK border. Any non-British citizen who refuses to comply with the regulations and is a non-UK resident could be refused entry.
Announcements will be made on incoming flights informing people of the arrangements and posters and leaflets will be displayed at airport arrivals. The material, which will also explain existing social distancing measures, will be in English and nine other languages.
All arriving passengers must tell officials where they are staying, whether it is with family, friends or in rented accommodation. This will enable them to be reached if someone they have been in contact with contracts the virus. People will be required to self-isolate in facilities arranged by the government should their arrangements not meet the necessary requirements.
Anyone refusing to complete the ‘contact locator form’ after arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train will face a £100 fine.
STRICT RULES WILL ENFORCE QUARANTINE
Strict rules will be implemented to enforce the 14-day quarantine. Those entering self-isolation will be expected to travel by car where possible and not use public transport; not leave their residence for 14 days; not go to work, school or visit public areas; not have friends or family to stay or visit (except to provide essential support); not go shopping in instances they can rely on others; and to download the NHS Covid-19 app at the border.
Anybody breaching the rules in the UK will face a £1,000 fine or potential prosecution. Penalties could increase if the rate of infection from overseas rises.
Random checks will be conducted by public health authorities to ensure compliance with the rules. Individuals could be contacted regularly, while foreign nationals refusing to comply face deportation.
Rules will apply across the whole of the UK, although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have different enforcement measures. Reviews will take place every three weeks to ensure they are in line with latest scientific evidence and remain effective and necessary.
As speculated, those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Mann will be exempt. Medical professionals helping treat the virus and seasonal agricultural workers staying on farms where they are working and road haulage and freight workers will also be excluded.
Patel says the quarantine is being implemented because there is a risk those visiting the UK this summer or returning from abroad will bring the virus with them. She also suggests imported cases could pose a ‘larger threat’ moving forward and that action is needed to manage the risk of transmission.
“As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border. We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.
“I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others,” Patel remarked.
Addressing reports suggesting France would be exempt from the UK’s 14-day quarantine measures, the Home Secretary indicates there will ‘limited’ exemptions and that details will be revealed in due course.
These emerging details revealed today follow UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s confirmation of widespread speculation earlier this month that airline passengers arriving in the country would be quarantined. Johnson, however, stopped short of revealing how long the quarantine would last during his stirring address to the nation on 10 May.
The proposed quarantine measure, immediately drew consternation from the UK aviation sector, including the UK Travel Retail Forum, who believed the move would cause significant damage to the industry.
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.”
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.
“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.”
Reacting to the UK’s quarantine plans which were revealed this afternoon (22 May), Charlie Cornish, Group CEO, Manchester Airports Group said: “For as long as it lasts, a blanket quarantine policy will be a brick wall to the recovery of the UK aviation and tourism industries, with huge consequences for UK jobs and GDP.
“By enabling people to travel between the UK and low risk countries, the aviation industry is able to help lead the UK economy out of this crisis, just as it has in previous recessions. But in order for this to happen, the government must work quickly to create a smart and targeted approach which recognises that many countries are already low risk.”
He added: “European countries are starting to open up and some that are popular with British holidaymakers want to agree two-way arrangements with the UK to enable travel. Government has to take a risk-based approach to quarantine arrangements to enable air travel to restart and to allow British people to enjoy well-earned holidays in safe countries.
“At the same time, this would help kick-start UK tourism and hospitality industries, saving businesses and jobs. A blanket quarantine will seriously jeopardise the long-term future of the sector and put at risk tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of economic value.”
Adding further reaction to the details of the 14-day quarantine, Dee expressed her disappointment at the government’s decision to press forward with the plans. She said: “We are disappointed that the government has decided to go ahead with a simplistic, blanket approach to quarantining all arrivals, without any consultation with industry.
“This threatens to have very serious economic and social consequences, not just in aviation but in all sectors relying on aviation connectivity, without resulting in notably better public health outcomes than a more targeted approach. This must be reviewed more frequently than every three weeks.
“Airlines will be reluctant to fly if there is limited to no demand as a result of quarantine restrictions, hampering the travel of those key workers who have now been exempted.”
Dee, who urges the UK to follow in neighbours and key trading partners in moving towards a science-led, risk-based approach added: “Industry proposals such as air bridges would facilitate travel from low-risk countries and protect the public from high-risk arrivals.
“This would enable the restart of aviation and support the UK’s economic recovery. Crucially, this also would give us time to get a testing regime in place for arriving passengers like Greece, Iceland and other countries are doing, as the next step to returning to a new normal.
“In the meantime, the Chancellor needs to provide further financial and business support to airports and travel operators to help the industry get through this prolonged period with limited to no revenue and ensure the sector is ready to restart in support of the UK economic recovery.”
Tim Alderslade, CEO, Airlines UK, says introducing a quarantine makes no sense and will mean ‘very limited international aviation at best’. He commented: “It is just about the worst thing government could do if their aim is to restart the economy.
“Thousands of jobs and the recovery of the UK economy depend on re-establishing air links as soon as possible. Ministers must ensure that the review period in three weeks is robust, transparent and evidence-led, with the advice published in full.
“Airlines are introducing new public health measures so they are ready to carry passengers. A common sense approach, establishing health corridors with low risk countries that more effectively achieves our public health objectives, is the only way to get passengers travelling again and government should give them their full support.”