Widespread reports this morning suggest that the government will bring in a 14-day quarantine on arrivals into the UK. The measures are will start at the end of the month, and will apply to all arrivals apart from key workers and lorry drivers.
Until now there have been no restrictions on arrivals, the majority of which are Britons returning home from abroad, including numerous rescue flights. This has attracted criticism (see our forum Heathrow. ZERO Screening for Covid -19 on arrival)
The move will be met with dismay by airlines, airports and the hospitality industries, as well as the wider tourist economy.
This week Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, the owner of British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia, warned that a ‘meaningful’ resumption of flights in July would only happen if government measures did not prevent it. The industry had also said that the end of the current furlough scheme would lead to job losses.
In addition, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye was this week emphasising the importance of health-screening above quarantine measures
He also said that both delayed decisions on aviation would mean the loss of ‘tens of thousands’ of front line jobs at airports in the UK.
The BBC reports that Aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst is expected to clarify the policy to airline and airport representatives in a conference call scheduled for Saturday morning.
The pilots’ union BALPA says it is concerned that health and safety of aircrew and passengers, and the effectiveness and commercial impacts of schemes like 14 day quarantine periods, have not been thoroughly thought through.
Brian Strutton, BALPA General Secretary, said “We haven’t seen the scientific basis for the possible 14 day quarantine proposal, nor any risk assessments for the health and wellbeing of crew.
“There are too many open questions. What is the Government’s plan for aviation? How does it all fit together? Is the U.K. acting consistently with other jurisdictions or going it alone? And crucially, will the government pay for airlines to fly inefficiently due to the government’s imposed restrictions?
“My concern is that once again the Government has not considered the impacts on pilots and other crew facing job losses and pay cuts – there has to be a moratorium on these threats and a viable plan to support aviation. It’s high time the Government got its act together.”
UPDATE – Saturday evening
Transport Secretary refused to confirm the introduction of the 14-day quarantine today, instead saying that people would have to wait until the Prime Minister’s televised address on Sunday. What he did say was
“We can’t have a situation where everyone else is being asked to stay at home, but others can come into the country.”