Passengers entering the UK from France will be exempt from new UK quarantine plans, in a reciprocal agreement between the two countries.
Boris Johnson confirmed widespread reports the Government will bring in the 14-day quarantine rule for visitors into the UK in his TV address to nation on Sunday evening, although details were very sketchy.
During the televised statement in which the Prime Minisiter set out a brief roadmap for easing the coronavirus lockdown, Johnson said: “To prevent reinfection from abroad, I’m serving notice that it will soon be time, with transmissions [within the UK] significantly lower, to impose quarantine on people coming into into this country by air.”
The PM did not give a specific date of when the new rules will come in, but news sources are reporting a 14-day quarantine will take effect at the end of this month and will apply to anyone arriving in the UK from any country except the Republic of Ireland.
It was later confirmed that quarantine measures would not apply between France and the UK ‘at this stage’, thanks to an agreement between the two countries.
In a joint statement, the UK and French governments said they had agreed to “work together in taking forward appropriate border measures”, adding: “This co-operation is particularly necessary for the management of our common border.”
The statement added: “No quarantine measures would apply to travellers coming from France at this stage; any measures on either side would be taken in a concerted and reciprocal manner.
“A working group between the two governments will be set up to ensure this consultation throughout the coming weeks.”
Johnson did not make any more details available about how the quarantine would work, but it’s believed the rules will mean people would have to provide an address when they arrive at the border. However, it is not clear how long the restriction will be in place and whether non-UK residents would be allowed to stay in rented private accommodation.
Spot-checks will be carried out, according to reports, and those who break the law could be fined £1,000 or deported.
The aviation industry has questioned the quarantine announcement, with leaders saying they need more detail about when implementation will begin, when it will end and whether it will be regularly reviewed.
Airport operators said the move ‘would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy’, while Airlines UK said the policy needed ‘a credible exit plan’ and should be reviewed weekly.
Airlines UK previously said such a proposal ‘would effectively kill international travel to and from UK and cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry and wider UK economy’.
It said: “Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted.
“It will also make it all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon, thereby setting back the UK’s economic recovery still further.”
Airlines UK added: “We need to see the details of what they are proposing.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board or Airline Representatives said: “The restart and recovery of aviation is an essential component in getting the UK economy moving again. Flying can only recommence in any meaningful way once the 14 day self-isolation requirement is superseded by a carefully coordinated and internationally harmonised approach, incorporating a series of multi-layered and more effective measures that better target and mitigate risk, and provide the confidence that flying is safe.”
Which? said: “This news will add to the confusion that British travellers are currently facing when trying to work out whether they can travel as planned, safely rebook postponed holidays, and when they will receive the refunds they are entitled to under consumer law for cancelled trips.
“The situation is chaotic: the guidance issued by the Government against travelling abroad is indefinite, and yet some airlines and travel companies are selling flights and holidays due to depart within the next few weeks which carry no warning that they are unlikely to go ahead as planned.
“Airlines and holiday companies must now be given clear FCO guidance on what dates it is appropriate to sell flights and holidays for. The government must also urgently produce a plan to support the travel industry through this crisis, so carriers and holiday companies can comply with the law and refund consumers without fear of going bust.”
The pilots’ union BALPA has asked to see details of any government proposals to restart commercial flying.
General secretary Brian Strutton said “We haven’t seen the scientific basis for the possible 14-day quarantine proposal, nor any risk assessments for the health and wellbeing of crew.
“There are too many open questions. What is the Government’s plan for aviation? How does it all fit together? Is the UK acting consistently with other jurisdictions or going it alone? And crucially, will the government pay for airlines to fly inefficiently due to the Government’s imposed restrictions?
“My concern is that once again the Government has not considered the impacts on pilots and other crew facing job losses and pay cuts – there has to be a moratorium on these threats and a viable plan to support aviation. It’s high time the Government got its act together.”
Similar measures have already been implemented in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.