Two-week quarantine for travellers to UK would 'devastate' aviation industry
A 14-day quarantine period for all travellers coming to Britain would have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry and wider economy, a trade body has said.
The government is expected to announce the quarantine on Sunday as part of measures to prevent a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson is set to address the nation and present his roadmap out of the lockdown, and will announce the introduction of quarantine measures for people who arrive at airports, ports and Eurostar railway stations, including for Britons returning from abroad.
People will be asked to provide the address at which they will self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival by filling out a digital form, according to a report in the Times.
Airlines UK said it had been told by government officials that the plan would be in place by the end of the month or early June.
A spokesman for the trade body said: “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.”
Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said she had not received any details but said it would “not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy”.
Quarantine should be applied selectively following the science if it was medically necessary to do so, Dee said. “There should be a clear exit strategy and the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated,” she said.
“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. These measures should include granting immediate business rates relief to airports and related service providers as well as relief from Civil Aviation Authority charges for the whole aviation sector.”
Travellers from the Channel Islands, Ireland and the Isle of Man will be exempt and it is understood key workers and lorry drivers bringing in goods would also be exempt from the requirements.
The Times reports that despite concerns that the UK was continuing to allow people to fly in as the death rate soared last month, ministers insisted that introducing a quarantine system would not have made a difference, because of the prevalence of the disease in the country.
Visitors to Britain and those returning home have so far been able to arrive without a temperature check or the requirement to self-isolate.
Figures released to Labour MP Stephen Doughty showed that fewer than 300 people arriving in the UK were quarantined in the run-up to coronavirus lockdown on 23 March. The Home Office figures showed that just 273 of about 18.1 million arrivals had to spend time in isolation in the first three months of the year, including passengers on three planes from Wuhan, the centre of the initial outbreak in China.
Lisa Nandy said she had been asking ministers to clarify government policy on quarantines for weeks, saying she had raised it five times before the leak.
The shadow foreign secretary said large numbers of people had returned to the UK, or were still stranded with no information about how they should behave to keep their families safe on their return. “The wider public are really worried about it, and for weeks we’ve had mixed messages being briefed out of government,” she said.
She told BBC Breakfast that her office was in touch with about 3,000 people still stranded abroad, many of whom had concerns about travelling to the airport. She gave the example of people trapped in Spain who were travelling on coaches to crowded airports without social distancing measures.
“Then, of course, there’s no testing facilities when they arrived back into the UK,” she said. “We’ve got to get much, much quicker at this or we’re going to see a resurgence in cases.”
The BBC reported on Friday night that aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst is expected to discuss the proposals with airline and airport representatives in a conference call on Saturday morning.
The idea of a quarantine has been mooted for some time, and transport secretary Grant Shapps has hinted at such a measure once the infection rate within the country is under control so the government is sure that the illness is not being imported.
Shapps told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday: “I think it is important that as we are seeing the numbers decrease and the R rate we hope decrease … that we do ensure that the sacrifices in a sense – social distancing – that we are asking the British people to make are matched by anybody who comes to this country.
“I am actively looking at these issues right now so that when we have infection rates within the country under control we are not importing.”
However, questions will be raised as to why this measure was not introduced sooner, and what the scientific reasoning is for it to be introduced at this point in the government’s response. Other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, ordered 14-day isolation periods for visitors as early as March.