The UK government confirmed in a statement that it will put in place a 14-day period of quarantine for anyone that lands on British soil in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The move, which was announced at the government’s daily press briefing, will be a huge blow for the airline industry that is predicted to lose $314bn (£253bn) this year, according to the latest prediction from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That number is still 25% more than previously forecasted. This is also due to a 55% drop in 2020 passenger revenue compared with last year.
Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed at the daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Friday that alongside the 14-day quarantine, those under that lockdown could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance.
“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 said in a statement.
“We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.
“I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”
Other measures include:
Contact locator form: All arriving passengers will be required to fill this form in to provide contact and travel information so they can be contacted if they, or someone they may have been in contact with develops the disease.
Spot checks: Border Force will also undertake checks at the border and may refuse entry to any non-British citizen who refuses to comply with these regulations and isn’t resident in the UK. Public health authorities will conduct random checks in England to ensure compliance with self-isolation requirements. Removal from the country would be considered as a last resort for foreign nationals who refuse to comply with these public health measures.
Fines: Anyone failing to comply with the mandatory conditions under the 14-day quarantine may face a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine. The level of fine could increase if the risk of infection from abroad increases. The Devolved Administrations will set out their own enforcement approaches. Failure to complete the spot check/contact form is also punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice.
These are similar measures that have already been announced by other countries including the US, Spain and New Zealand to stop the spread of new cases of COVID-19.
On Friday, Virgin Atlantic said it will delay resuming flights until at least August this year due to the new government plans.
“The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first. However, by introducing a mandatory 14 day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the UK, the Government’s approach will prevent flights from resuming,” said a spokesperson for the company, founded by Virgin tycoon Richard Branson.
“We are continually reviewing our flying programme and with these restrictions, there simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest.”
Previously, British Airways (BA) and Aer Lingus owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L) has said that it hopes to revive flights to 50% of capacity by July. And EasyJet (EZJ.L) announced earlier this week that it plans to resume flights from a number of UK airports from 15 June.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of budget airline Ryanair (RYA.L) previously called the plans “unenforceable and unpoliceable,” warning they would be widely ignored. The airline recently confirmed, as well, it will not “request or receive” state aid as it is set to halve its passenger numbers over the next year.
However, the airline group noted in its financial statement that it raised £600m in unsecured debt in April from the UK's state-backed loan program, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
Ryanair chief financial officer Neil Sorahan argued that tapping the CCFF was not comparable to the billions in state support that Air France (AF.PA) and Lufthansa (LHA.DE) will receive. The CCCF was “not illegal state aid” as it was open to all companies with an investment grade credit rating, Sorahan said.
“Like all countries, the UK must be guided by the science and have a health first approach because we cannot risk a second wave of the virus,” said Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director.
“Quarantine will have a significant impact across a number of sectors, so it’s welcome that the government will keep the policy under regular review. Businesses are keen to work with government on a robust, internationally-coordinated plan to get passengers flying safely as soon as possible, including through innovative solutions such as the establishment of air bridges.
“Airlines and airports are critical hubs for regional and national prosperity and will have a key role to play in the economic recovery.”