As UK border staff prepare the impose the nation’s first blanket quarantine scheme, opposition is growing to Priti Patel’s plan for 14 days of self-isolation for most arrivals.
Passengers at UK airports, ferry ports and international rail terminals will be required to go home or to another suitable address, and stay there for two weeks. The new law applies to returning British travellers as well as foreigners.
On Sky News, Matt Hancock once again defended the policy, which comes into effect at midnight.
The health secretary said: “We are bringing the quarantine policy again because as the number of new infections comes down, so the proportion of infections to come from abroad increases, simply because the number of infections domestically is coming right down.”
But British Airways is understood to be mounting a legal challenge to what it calls an “irrational and disproportionate” measure.
“It’s emerged this week that the quarantine policy that’s coming into place from tomorrow has not gone through Sage, the government advisory committee.
“So it’s difficult to see how this does actually follow through the science.”
The Labour Party, which has until now strongly backed the home secretary’s plan, is now calling for her to explain how quarantine will be lifted.
Ms Patel’s Labour shadow, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has written to her to demand that travellers should be able to take a test for Covid-19 – and, if it is negative, avoid self-isolation.
The Independent has analysed the likely health effects of quarantine, and concluded that more British people will be infected with coronavirus than if healthy UK travellers had been able to take holidays abroad in much lower-risk countries.
A valuable strategy for reducing the overall number of infections is to reduce the number of potential candidates in the UK.
The Home Office has been asked to identify flaws in that analysis.
The prime minister is reported to be keen to put so-called “air bridges” in place to neutralise the quarantine rules. These bilateral deals would allow British holidaymakers to travel abroad without needing to self-isolate for two weeks on return.
Meanwhile England, Wales and Northern Ireland have published the statutory instruments for quarantine to take legal effect, but the Scottish government appears not yet to have laid the necessary legislation for quarantine to take effect.
It has until midnight to enact the regulations.
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