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Huge Loopholes Exposed in UK’s “10 Weeks Too Late” Quarantine Rules

Huge Loopholes Exposed in UK’s “10 Weeks Too Late” Quarantine Rules

New 14-day quarantine rules announced yesterday by the British government and set to come into force on June 8 have been blasted as unenforceable after huge loopholes that will allow airline passengers to circumvent the self-isolation requirements were exposed. Despite having the largest COVID-19 epidemic in Europe and the second highest Coronavirus death rate in the world, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the measures were now required to protect the British people.

“As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border,” Patel said as she announced the rules at a press conference on Friday.

Photo Credit: heathrow Airport

Responding to criticism that the quarantine rules were being introduced 10 weeks too late, Patel countered: “We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.”

Up until now, the UK had been an outlier in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic by refusing to implement any form of border restriction. Over the last 10-weeks an estimated 100,000 passengers have arrived in the UK without any form of health screening taking place and no quarantine requirements in place.

Professor John Aston, the Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser said putting in measures earlier would have had a “negligible” effect on the spread of the virus because there was already “significant community transmission”.

“As the number of infections within the UK drops, we must now manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from elsewhere,” Professor Aston continued.

Most new overseas arrivals from June 8 will be required to nominate an address where they will self-isolate for a period of 14-days. Passengers will be expected to complete a passenger locator form and anyone who breaches the quarantine rules will be subject to a £1,000 fine. Foreign visitors could be refused entry if they refuse to comply with the requirements.

New arrivals will not, however, be subject to any additional health screening and exemptions apply to anyone arriving in the UK from the Republic of Ireland. That means that passengers who first fly to Dublin before connecting onto a second flight to anywhere in the UK will not have to self-isolate for 14-days.

And while the Republic of Ireland currently has its own quarantine measures in place, the country has its own exemptions for transit passengers. In fact, some passengers will even be allowed to get a bus from Dublin to Belfast in Northern Ireland without needing to quarantine and then travelling to the UK mainland.

Once in the UK, passengers will then be expected to make their own way to their quarantine address. While the British government will encourage people to drive home, they will not stop anyone arriving from abroad getting on public transport.

Some tour operators are already said to be planning vacation packages that will take advantage of this loophole.

The quarantine rules have been openly criticised by aviation executives who fear the measures could decimate the airline, travel and hospitality sectors even more than the damage that the Coronavirus pandemic has already wreaked upon their industries.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has described the plans as “idiotic” while the head of Manchester Air Group described the quarantine rules as a “brick rule to the recovery of UK aviation”. John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport said the government “needs to urgently lay out a roadmap for how they will reopen borders once the disease has been beaten”.

The owner of British Airways says it is unlikely to restart flights in July as originally planned if quarantine measures are still in place. Virgin Atlantic also said it would ground flights until the rules were lifted. Patel said the government would review the measures every three weeks.

Exemptions also apply to road haulage and freight workers, medical professionals and overseas crop workers.