Since the start of lockdown, air travel has been off the table unless it's essential travel. As such, there's been a huge decline in flights. What there hasn't been is any form of quarantine measures for arrivals. Well, they may come into effect next month and there will be fines if people aren't quarantining themselves.
It might seem a bit late, two months after lockdown, to start putting restrictions on the movement of people arriving into the country, but better late than never I guess. Even before lockdown, we were watching the spread of the virus but coronavirus-specific travel advice was non-existent, and there were certainly no measures in place to keep an eye on people coming from abroad. Since the Prime Minister laid out the lockdown exit strategy, there's been talk of introducing some, although this received criticism for being a distant plan rather than something that was being actioned with immediate effect.
The new plans will see anyone entering the country directed to self-isolate for 14 days starting at some point next month; that goes for all methods of travel including plane, trains, (and automobiles), and ferries. Arrivals will need to fill out a form with their contact info on and provide UK Border Force officials with an address of where they'll be quarantining themselves. Apparently, if that's not something they can provide, accommodation will be provided by the government instead. And to make sure no one's playing silly buggers, there will be spot checks with a potential fine of £1,000 if people aren't complying. There are some exemptions though, like medical officials, road hauliers, and people coming in from the Republic of Ireland. Arrivals from France won't be exempt after all, which is what we initially thought would be the case last week. Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said:
"[There are] lots of questions as to why we didn't do this sooner. I would urge the government to get on with it and give us the details about how it's going to work in practice."
Meanwhile, Tony Smith - chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association, and former head of Border Force - said he was "surprised" that the UK's border had been utterly bereft of any quarantine measure thus far. You and me both, Tony. He added that he'd expected to see a more "incremental approach... that might have reduced the transmission from abroad". I think that's a bit too much common sense on display there, Tony. Reel it in.
The Airport Operators Association head, Karen Dee, wasn't keen on the suggestion, saying rolling out quarantine measures now is "odd" and that they're simply a "blunt tool" that will apply "to everybody in all circumstances" rather than taking a risk-based approach that people in the aviation industry seem to be favouring. Can't imagine why. Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary isn't keen on the idea either, saying a 14-day period of quarantine is "unenforceable and unpoliceable" and that the government is "making stuff up as they go along". [BBC News]
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