LONDON: Britain introduced a two-week quarantine on Monday for most people arriving from abroad to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
British residents and overseas visitors will have to comply with the 14-day self-isolation rules or face a £1,000 fine or prosecution. The move has sparked condemnation from the ailing aviation sector, which claims it could cost tens of thousands of jobs.
Others question why Britain, which has been hardest hit by COVID-19 in Europe is inflicting more pain on hotels and airlines by reducing travel from countries with fewer virus cases.
The chief executive of London’s Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, told local media it could lead to the loss of potentially 25,000 jobs at the airport, a third of staff.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new rules made sense because “the proportion of infections that come from abroad increases” as Britain’s own caseload drops. “We’ve got to take an approach that starts with caution,” he said.
To enter Britain by plane, train, road or sea, travellers must provide details of their journey and the address where they will self-isolate and the measures will be assessed every three weeks.
Exemptions are being made in several cases — including for lorry drivers, essential healthcare workers and people travelling from Ireland who have been there for at least two weeks.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told lawmakers in parliament last week the measure was “backed by the science, supported by the public, and essential to save lives”.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called it a “blunt instrument” and that he would prefer testing within airports.
“Weeks ago other countries put quarantine in and we didn’t, now as everybody’s lifting it we are putting it in,” he told a radio channel.
As part of the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, non-essential retail outlets will reopen from June 15. Restaurants and bars will follow with a limited service in early July.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is trying to arrange travel corridors with countries such as France and Spain that could see them lift quarantine requirements. Britain’s official death toll is 40,542 — second only to the United States.