Following speculation regarding the introduction of quarantine for passengers arriving in the UK the British Government has announced that the regulations will be enforced from the 8 June. This will affect millions of people who have planned holidays abroad.
The Quarantine Provisions
It has now become clear that all passengers arriving in the UK by plane, boat or train will be subject to a compulsory 14-day period of self-isolation at an address notified to the authorities on a contact locator form. Spot checks will ensure the rules are being followed. Breaches of these provisions will be subject to fines between £100 – £1,000.
Passengers arriving in the UK will be requested to drive by car to their place of self-isolation and not to travel on public transport. As Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, has pointed out, this is not going to happen. In his view quarantine “is idiotic and it is unimplementable,” He added, during an interview with BBC radio, “It’s laughable to think that this Government could come up with any plan that could be strict and fully enforced when they are already exempting the Irish … You don’t have enough police in the UK to implement the two weeks’ lockdown.” There may be some truth in what he says.
There will be exemptions; road haulage and freight workers; medical officials travelling to deal with coronavirus; arrivals from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. Seasonal agricultural workers are also exempt provided they self-isolate at the place where they are working. Travellers from France are not exempt as they had anticipated and will be responding with reciprocal measures relating to arrivals in France from the UK. No doubt other countries will be doing the same. International travel will only be viable when the borders are open at the beginning and end of a journey.
The Timing of Quarantine Provisions and their Consequences
Naturally, there is a lot of opposition to these measures and in particular from the aviation and tourist industry already badly affected by the pandemic. And why are they being introduced when other countries like Italy and Greece are planning to open their borders soon? The government claims quarantine is necessary to protect a falling transmission rate of the virus from the risk of infection coming in from other countries.
There will be a review of these provisions after three weeks. Meanwhile the government is considering the possibility of introducing air bridges. This would involve exemptions for travellers from countries with low levels of the coronavirus, for example, Greece. But would it spark an outbreak of travel plans detouring through the countries involved to avoid quarantine restrictions in the UK?
For millions of disappointed holiday-makers a staycation is the obvious alternative. But, prices are escalating and available accommodation is filling up rapidly. Cornwall has already warned that it is close to capacity. Restricted use of public transport means more cars on the roads and more congestion. Overcrowding in popular sea-side resorts will make compliance with social distancing very difficult. To date, this has been our strongest weapon against COVID-19.
The Response to the Imposition of Quarantine in the UK
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK summarises the situation. “Introducing a quarantine at this stage makes no sense and will mean very limited international aviation at best. It is just about the worst thing government could do if their aim is to restart the economy.”