Former transport minister criticises quarantine law as government looks to scrap air bridge plans
Conservative MP and former transport minister Theresa Villiers has taken aim at the Covid-19 quarantine law for new arrivals in the UK, saying it has not been worth the damage caused to the travel industry.
The law came into force on June 8 and required the majority of arrivals in the country from abroad to quarantine at an agreed location for a 14-day period.
Exemptions from the law include arrivals from the Republic of Ireland, unless they have travelled abroad in the 14 days before their arrival in Britain.
Any new arrival’s choice of address for undertaking the quarantine must be disclosed in a passenger locator form in advance and failure to comply triggers a penalty of £100. Anybody breaking the quarantine rules once in the UK is liable to a fine of £1,000.
Yet, as of Wednesday night this week, no UK police force had confirmed that they had issued a fine for breaking the rules according to reports. Meanwhile, just two have been handed out by the UK Border Force at the Eurotunnel terminal in France.
Responsibility for ensuring that new arrivals adhere to the quarantine is shared between the police and Public Health England. The National Police Chief’s Council [NPCC] is expected to reveal the full figures for fines issued by police forces across England and Wales in due course.
The NPCC said in a statement: "The overwhelming majority of people will do the right thing and follow the rules, which are helping to protect the NHS and save lives.
"As the government has made clear, it will not be the role of police to conduct spot checks on those who should be isolating. Only if public health authorities suspect someone is not following the restrictions will police become involved."
The Home Office has put the lack of fines issued down to “high levels of compliance” with the law.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The quarantine system is informed by science, backed by the public and designed to keep us all safe.
"We are seeing a high level of compliance and we expect this to continue as the vast majority of people will play their part to help stop the spread of this disease."
Speaking of the rule, Villiers said: "So far this policy has caused damage to the travel industry, and inconvenience for holiday-makers, without any evidence of it working effectively to cut Covid risk.
"Air bridges needed to be in place from the start to deliver a risk-based approach which imposed quarantine only on flights from places with high rates of infection."
Villers was one of a number of MPs who had called on home secretary Priti Patel to delay implementing the quarantine restrictions.
Meanwhile, the government is set to scrap its plan for individual air bridges with certain countries and will instead opt to make potentially as many as 75 countries exempt from the quarantine rule, The Telegraph reports.
The full list of countries could be published by the end of the week. Some higher-risk countries such as the US may not be included on the list, meaning new arrivals must abide by the quarantine law.