Howls of protest as UK starts 14-day quarantine for arrivals
London - Britain began imposing a 14-day quarantine on Monday, on travellers coming into the country – a sweeping measure meant to halt the further spread of Covid-19 that has been roundly criticised by the tourism industry.
All passengers, bar a handful of exceptions like truckers or medical workers, will be asked to fill in a form detailing exactly where they will self-isolate for two weeks and give a phone number so authorities can check up on them. The requirement applies regardless if they are citizens or not.
In England, new arrivals should stay indoors and rely on others to get their food. They can only leave for specific reasons like needing urgent medical care or medicine. Those who fail to comply with the quarantine rules could be fined.
“There are quite a lot of unknowns about the situation,’’ Crime, Policing and Justice Minister Kit Malthouse told the BBC. “But for the moment, having a clear set of rules around international travel is critical.”
The quarantine was imposed after a heated debate on whether it would help British efforts to tamp down the UK outbreak or simply stamp out any hopes that the British tourism industry will recover following the country's coronavirus lockdown.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary says the quarantine will cause “untold devastation” for the country’s tourism industry, not just on the airlines.
“The thousands of hotels, the thousands of visitor attractions, restaurants in the next couple of months – July and August are the two key months for British tourism,’’ he said. “We’re facing thousands of jobs losses because of a stupid, ineffective quarantine.”
Authorities had no immediate answers as to why the 14-day quarantine wasn't put in place on March 23, when Britain began its lockdown, or why an exception was made for attending the funeral of a close family relative when funerals are known to be virus-spreading events. Britain did not close its borders during the worst of the outbreak.
Britain has the second-most most recorded coronavirus deaths in the world – 40 625 – after the US. Prime minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government has been roundly criticised for its slow response to fighting the outbreak. Many in his government, including Johnson himself, came down with coronavirus.
British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair have written to the British government applying for a judicial review, arguing that the quarantine rules are disproportionate.
Willie Walsh, the boss of IAG, the group that owns British Airways,has said airlines had not been consulted about the move.