This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The UK government is pressing ahead with requirements for all travelers arriving in the country to be quarantined for 14 days. Ignoring demands from business groups to delay, amend, or abandon the rules, Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday confirmed in a statement to the country’s parliament that the quarantine requirements will be enforced from June 8.
All passengers arriving by aircraft, ship, road, or rail will be required to complete a quarantine registration form, providing a fixed address and contact details to be used to check that they are keeping to the quarantine. Last week, the UK’s Border Force told AIN that the form could be completed on arrival in the country, but Wednesday’s announcement said it will be required before departure to the UK. The government will allow some groups of travelers to be exempt from the rules, including flight crew and people who have to travel at least once per week to another country for work.
Patel told parliament that the government will review the need to continue the quarantine every three weeks, with the first review scheduled for June 29, with a decision likely to be taken on the previous day. She said a meeting involving the Home Office and the Department for Transport will be held with aviation industry groups on June 4 to discuss the implementation of the rule.
Aviation groups—including Airlines UK, the British Business and General Aviation Association, and the Air Charter Association—have urged the government to replace the quarantine rules with measures such as testing arriving passengers for Covid-19 at airports and/or establishing so-called airbridge arrangements through which the UK would agree to allow travel to and from countries with lower infection rates. Fines of up to around $1,200 can be imposed on anyone who breaks quarantine requirements.
In the face of strong protests from members of parliament from her own Conservative party and opposition parties, Patel insisted that the quarantine is needed to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection rates rising. However, she refused to publish the scientific evidence on which she said the government’s decision was based and also refused to confirm whether or not its so-called SAGE committee of scientific advisors had endorsed the move.
The Airlines UK group called on the government to accelerate plans for possible airbridge arrangements and also to lift current Foreign Office travel advisories warning travelers against all non-essential travel worldwide. "Airlines can't start operations overnight and any announcement isn't going to trigger bookings and flights for several weeks," said CEO Tim Alderslade. "If the government leaves it too late, we run the risk of the summer season being over and losing out to other countries who are starting to open up their borders now."