Home secretary outlines UK quarantine plan
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, home secretary Priti Patel laid out the government’s plans for a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all new arrivals in the UK.
Under the plans, the UK Border Force will be tasked with ensuring that travellers complete a contact locator form, disclosing contact details and where they plan to self-isolate after arriving.
Health authorities will randomly spot check the selected accommodation to ensure compliance. Any breach of the quarantine is punishable with a £1,000 fine or prosecution.
Failure to complete the locator form can result in a fine of £100, and border authorities can refuse entry to travellers on such grounds.
The Home Office said that deportation for offenders will only be considered as "a last resort".
Addressing the penal measures for breaking the new rules, Patel said: "We will not allow a reckless minority to put our domestic recovery at risk.”
Patel added that new cases of Covid-19 coming from abroad now constitute a larger threat to the UK, adding that the nation must “protect our hard-won progress” in staving off the virus.
The new measures will be active from June 8, and Patel stressed that they would be “time-limited” and come with “limited exemptions” for key personnel, to guarantee an unhindered supply of food, PPE and other supplies.
The regulations Patel laid out in Parliament will apply to England only, with the devolved governments of the other constituent countries of the UK responsible for enforcing the quarantine in their own regions.
Patel defended bringing in the measures at this stage of the pandemic, telling MPs that scientific advisers felt a quarantine would not have been effective at an earlier stage, when the R rate of the virus was much higher.
The government has long insisted that it has followed scientific guidance in implementing its strategy throughout the crisis.
The quarantine measures are subject to review every three weeks, and Patel hinted that the government would relax the regulations in future, including through the establishment of "international travel corridors", exempting travellers coming from countries with low infection rates.
The government's desire to relax the quarantine in future stems from fierce backlash from both MPs and the travel and hospitality sectors.
Airline Ryanair has branded the measure "utterly ineffective", while the Confederation of British Industry [CBI] has called for clarity on the policy, specifically over how it will be reviewed, who will be exempt, and how international travel corridors would be formed.
CBI president John Allen said: "Businesses and government urgently need to draw up an internationally coordinated plan to get people safely moving across borders as soon as possible."