Last Wednesday, UK travel and tourist industry leaders wrote a letter to the government, calling for an end to a 14-day quarantine policy on international arrivals to the country which was announced by Home Secretary Priti Patel on 22 May.
Britain’s proposed 14-day quarantine rules have already caused concerns over their possible negative impact on public health and the country’s travel and aviation industry, The Guardian reports.
The newspaper quoted former government chief scientific adviser David King as saying that he was alarmed about the draft plans because “if we look at what’s happened in other parts of Europe, and certainly in southeast Asia, the quarantine process has been much more rigorous than this”.
“There’s a particular worry I have, that is too much discretion is being left to the individual. If the legal requirement, which for infectious diseases is set out in law, is not followed through, then it does spell difficulties. There’s too much emphasis on individual discretion in making key decisions”, he argued.
King was echoed by Tory lawmaker Henry Smith, head of a cross-party group of MPs opposing the draft plans, who asserted that the new quarantine proposals make little sense.
“It really feels like it will bring limited public health benefit for a lot of economic pain”, he said. “There were already some absurdities to the idea, like backdoor routes, so you could fly to Dublin, go Dublin to London, and then not be checked”, he was cited by The Guardian as saying.
Smith also remained downbeat about the possibility of a parliamentary vote on the quarantine rules, saying that “in the normal course of events, I think we’d be seeking a division on the issue of quarantine”.
“But because it is something that’s temporary, and like it or not a relatively niche issue, my view is that it could be more counterproductive than positive, because it’ll put people’s backs up”, he added.
The standpoint was backed by Labour MP and former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP and former culture secretary, who claimed that “there are no public health benefits of a blanket quarantine at this stage”.
“This is simply a fig leaf to disguise [Home Secretary] Priti Patel’s embarrassment at not having had a quarantine at the beginning of the outbreak, when one might have been justified. Not only is there no basis in science for this ridiculous policy, but it will unnecessarily cost thousands and thousands of jobs. The sooner the government scraps it, the better”, Bradshaw added.
Travel Industry Giants Urge Gov’t to Drop Two-Week Quarantine for Arrivals
The remarks followed British travel and tourist industry leaders calling for an end to the “unworkable” and “damaging” quarantine proposal. In last week’s letter to Priti Patel, signed by 78 bosses of hotels and travel firms, they said that quarantine is the “very last thing” the country needs as economic prospects amid the coronavirus lockdown look increasingly dire.
Now that the pandemic is “on the retreat”, the message warned that the travel industry cannot rapidly “scale down” its workforce and must maintain staff “to either cancel, or rearrange existing, often complex, bookings”.
The letter came after Patel confirmed earlier last week that the UK would be introducing a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals, starting from 8 June. The rules are still being finalised and due to be published later on Tuesday before coming into effect next week.
“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”, she announced, adding that the government is introducing these new measures now “to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave”.
Under the rules, the two-week isolation measures will be imposed on all new arrivals to the UK as of next month. Fines of £1,000 ($1,250) will be given to those who breach the quarantine in order to prevent new cases of coronavirus brought over from overseas spreading throughout the UK.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country currently stands at 274,766, with 38,489 fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest situation report.