United Kingdom Finally Looks To Implement 14-Day Quarantine

When interviewed by the BBC on May 3, the United Kingdom transport secretary Grant Shapps hinted that the country was ready to implement a 14 day quarantine period for people entering the UK. Today, it is expected that the minister will announce this measure formally at this afternoon’s Downing Street briefing.

Arrivals will be told to self-isolate for 14 days. Photo: Getty Images

The UK is hoping for an easing of lockdown restrictions to be announced over the weekend. While these may come as some relief to those who have been isolating for several weeks, the flip side of this situation will be tighter controls at the borders. The UK has remained ‘open’ to travelers during the pandemic so far, but predictions are that this could change.

Millions of people will cancel summer holidays abroad

When speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Mar, Grant Shapps said:

 “I think it is important that [the sacrifices] we are asking the British people to make are matched by anybody who comes to this country.

“I am actively looking at these issues right now so that when we have infection rates within the country under control, we are not importing.”

The new rule, which is expected to last until at least July, will have a devastating effect on not only the airlines but the travel industry as a whole as many of Britain’s 66 million inhabitants cancel foreign holiday plans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the new rules on Sunday.Photo: Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has already crushed not only the airlines but rail and sea travel too, with fewer than 10,000 people arriving in the UK each day-compared with nearly 300,000 daily arrivals before the coronavirus crisis.

Inspectors will check people under quarantine

Anyone entering the UK will be treated as though they have the coronavirus and will be given a stay at home notice along with a form they must fill out explaining where they plan to self-isolate. Once the 14-day period is up, and they have no COVID-19 symptoms, they will be allowed to mix with the general public.

People arriving in the UK with no residential address will be told that they need to stay in a hotel for 14 days at their own expense. The government thinks that of all the people entering the country, very few will fall into that category.

coronavirus, IATA, aviation impact
Arrivals will have to provide an address where they will isolate. Photo: Getty Images

With nearly everyone having a mobile phone, calls to check if people are adhering to the rules are pointless, so the government plans to randomly send inspectors to the addresses they have been given to make sure people are abiding by the quarantine rules. If they are not there when inspectors arrive, they will be sought out and given hefty fines.

The impact on aviation

These measures are anticipated to have a disastrous effect on the aviation industry. Airlines already straining from the global downturn in travel demand will find their last shred of income ripped away, as visitors will no longer find it practical to fly into the UK. An executive at one of the UK’s large airports told the Financial Times,

“They are about to deliver a death blow to the aviation industry … This already comes on the back of two weeks of huge redundancies across the sector. There’s real frustration and anger across the industry. We’re left wondering if they don’t understand the importance of the aviation sector.”

British Airways
Walsh said he doesn’t expect British Airways to do much flying if a quarantine is imposed. Photo: Getty Images

Chief executive of British Airways’ owner IAG, Mr Willie Walsh, said earlier in the week that any quarantine imposition would mean the airline would not restart flying any time soon. He told the Financial Times,

“If there is a 14-day quarantine, I wouldn’t expect us to be doing any flying in that situation, or very little flying.”

He added he could not see “an environment where people will want to fly into the UK if they are forced to quarantine for 14 days”. 

People are asking why the government waited this long

Given that most countries other than the United States have a lower infection rate than the United Kingdom, it seems rather odd that the government would choose to start a mandatory quarantine now.

Breakfast television show host Piers Morgan has for weeks been asking why unlike other countries, the UK did not have a quarantine period for people entering the country. Mr. Morgan tweeted,

“So we’re doing this now, three months after the WHO declared Covid-19 a global health emergency after we’ve let 100s of 1,000s fly in from corona-ravaged countries with no checks & after 55k+ people have already died in the UK? What a sick joke.”

Quarantine rules will cripple holiday airlines like Jet2. Photo: Craig Sunter via Wikipedia

Many UK airlines were hoping to start flying again before June, but if these new measures come into place, operators like Jet2 will cancel any plans they had for a resumption of flights.

What do you think about the UK imposing a quarantine now? Is it too little, too late? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.