What are the UK's new quarantine rules?
How will the 14-day quarantine work and why are Britain’s three biggest airlines are challenging it.
Most people arriving in Britain from Monday will have to self-isolate for two weeks under a new coronavirus restriction that will apply those coming in by plane, ferry or train.
The measure, which applies to both residents and visitors with some exceptions, aims to prevent a second wave of contagion from abroad.
The aviation sector fears it will be hard hit, and British Airways and budget carriers EasyJet and Ryanair have launched joint legal proceedings against the government over what they called a “disproportionate and unfair” step.
The 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.
Travellers will have to provide details of their journey and the address where they will self-isolate and will face fines of up to £1,000 if they do not follow the rules.
Exemptions are being made in several cases – including for truck drivers, “essential” healthcare workers and people travelling from Ireland who have been there for at least two weeks.
The government is pushing ahead with a gradual lockdown easing that will see retail reopen on 15 June, and restaurants and bars begin limited service in early July.
Britain’s death toll stands at 40,625 according to Johns Hopkins university figures, trailing only that of the United States (110,514).
The UK’s new quarantine rules have come into effect from today. What are the new restrictions on international arrivals and how will they be enforced?
How will arrivals be tracked?
Most people arriving in the UK will need to fill in an online form with contact and travel details and the address where they will be staying in quarantine for the subsequent 14 days. Self-isolating people can shop for essentials such as food and medicine. Random checks will be carried out by Public Health England.
Who is exempt?
A large list of people, including anyone on government or defence business, foreign diplomats, regular international commuters, lorry drivers, medical workers and fruit pickers. By and large, the exemptions are international key workers.
How it will be enforced?
In England, fines start at £100 for not filling in the form, £1,000 for breaching self-isolation and possible deportation for foreign nationals not complying. However, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to say whether and how they will enforce the rules for any arrivals in their jurisdictions – an anomaly that IAG and others argue undermines the process.
Why do airlines and travel firms object?
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Britain’s three biggest airlines have started legal proceedings against the government in a bid to overturn quarantine rules. Although lockdown rules prevent overnight stays in the UK, and the Foreign Office has warned against all non-essential foreign travel, signs of progress had led airlines to plan more flights over the next two months, after grounding fleets in March. Holiday firms hoped that people would start booking trips. They argue that imposing the rules so late in the pandemic is ineffective, illogical, and will deter visitors and potential outward bookings long after the quarantine rules are lifted.
Why does the government say they are necessary?
The government says the measures are backed by science and will help prevent a second wave of Covid-19 cases imported from abroad, as other countries move out of lockdown, with restrictions on work and movement potentially eased further in the UK in coming weeks.
Have other countries imposed similar quarantine measures?
Yes, many either ensured that arrivals self-isolated or closed their borders to foreign visitors. However, Britain decided against doing so early in the crisis and is now bringing in quarantine just as other EU countries are in the process of opening up.