LONDON – Britain will introduce a COVID-19 quarantine for travelers arriving from abroad from June 8, Interior Minister Priti Patel said Friday, a measure airlines have warned will devastate their industry.
All international arrivals, including returning British, will have to isolate themselves for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying under the plans, which have been criticized by airlines, corporate groups and politicians alike.
“Now that we have passed the peak of this virus, we need to take steps to arm ourselves against imported cases causing a resurgence of this deadly disease,” Patel said at a news conference.
Those breaking the quarantine in England could be fined £ 1,000 and samples taken by health and border officials.
The quarantine does not apply to persons arriving from the Republic of Ireland, truck drivers, medical professionals and seasonal workers. The measures are evaluated every three weeks.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps has suggested that the government try to negotiate “airlifts” for travelers from countries with low virus infection rates.
In France, Britain’s closest neighbor to the European continent, the government has regretted the British decision. It was ready to impose reciprocal measures, AFP news agency quoted the French Ministry of the Interior.
Unlike many other countries, Britain has conducted few tests and checks on visitors, with quarantine limited only to arrivals from China at the start of the outbreak.
Spain and Italy have introduced rules that mean international arrivals should isolate themselves for two weeks, while Ireland provided further details on its own quarantine proposals on Friday.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said that the general quarantine was of great concern and could be avoided with strong security measures.
“This approach is damaging international business and investor confidence at a time when it is vital to demonstrate that the UK can do business safely,” said BCC Director General Adam Marshall.
The opposition Labor party supported the measures, but said the government’s treatment of British arrivals was “not urgent, coherent and clear” from the outset. Some members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s conservative party have also criticized the plan.
The most important among industry critics are the bosses of airlines, who said the measures would have serious consequences. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said they would be “unenforceable and non-polar”.
Ryanair and easyJet have outlined plans to restart some flights in the coming months. But under the quarantine plan, Virgin Atlantic will restart in August at the earliest.
“There is no point in introducing quarantine at this stage and will mean very limited international aviation at best,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry organization Airlines UK. “It’s pretty much the worst the government can do if it wants to restart the economy.”