UPDATE: Everything we know about the UK’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation for travelers
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Earlier in May, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the country’s road map out of coronavirus lockdown. While the plan included when schools and shops could reopen, Johnson also unveiled a broad plan to require incoming air passengers to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival into the country.
The move had been rumoured to be coming for a couple of weeks, though remained light in detail in the following days. In fact, there had been plenty of recircling of ideas about the policy. Would travellers from low-risk countries be exempt under “air bridges”?
As of Friday, 22 May, the government has provided the most detail on this isolation policy to-date. Beginning 8 June, all arriving international travellers will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, with few exceptions.
In the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s televised address on Sunday night, airlines and airports around the U.K. noted that requiring a 14-day self-isolation for arriving air passengers would be detrimental to tourism and their businesses. The travel and tourism industry, which has been crippled as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is expecting the U.K.’s mandatory self-isolation policy to continue to deter people from travelling to the country.
Willie Walsh, the CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, said that the company would have to rethink its plans to restart flights in July if the self-isolation mandate were to be in place. Low-cost carrier EasyJetcalled on the government’s restrictions to be short-lived.
Analysts at Citi said that EasyJet may have to raise between £700 million and £1 billion as a result of the government’s restrictions.
“Last night’s initiative by the government will have two significant consequences for the U.K. airline industry: The sizable monthly cash burn rates will persis through summer (and) a number of customers and industry bodies will increase the volume on their demands for immediate cash refunds to consumers”, the analysts said.
Here is what we know so far, noting that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office still advises against all non-essential travelas of this time.
What is the mandatory 14-day self-isolation?
As part of its measure to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread within the U.K., the government said that it’ll implement these strict measures at the border to prevent the coronavirus from coming through in large numbers. More specifically, all international arrivals will be required to self-isolate upon their arrival to the U.K. for 14 days.
“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”, Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Friday. “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”.
Once new restrictions take effect, all international arrivals that are not on a short list of exemptions will be required to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival into the U.K.
Upon arrival into the country, travellers — both U.K. nationals and internationals — will be required to provide their contact and accommodation information to border authorities.
When does the mandatory 14-day self-isolation take effect?
All international arrivals to the U.K. will be required to self-isolate for 14 days as of 8 June.
In Friday’s briefing, Patel said that the policy would be reviewed every three weeks.
There’s no firm end date for the isolation requirement.
Who will be required to self-isolate for 14 days?
At this point, all travellers arriving from international destinations will be required to isolate for 14 days — if they don’t fall into set exemption categories.
U.K. nationals who travel abroad — when the FCO advises it is safe to do so — will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when they return to the country.
Arriving passengers will have to fill out a form with their contact details and travel information so they can be traced if infections increase.
Who is exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement?
All travellers coming from within the Common Travel Area will be exempt from these measures. According to the government, the Common Travel Area (CTA) includes the U.K., Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Ireland.
There will also be exemptions for medics helping to support the coronavirus effort, seasonal agricultural workers, freight workers and some foreign officials, such as the French police.
In a U-turn on policy, arrivals from France will not be exempt from the 14-day quarantine.
How will the self-isolation requirement be enforced?
All arriving passengers will have to fill out their contact information while in the U.K. and their travel information. The government said that travellers could be contacted regularly during the 14-day isolation period in addition to random checks to ensure they’re remaining in isolation.
Those in the 14-day isolation will not be allowed to welcome visitors unless they’re providing essential support. Additionally, if they can rely on others, they should not be going out to buy food or other essentials.
If someone is found to be in violation of the 14-day isolation period, they could be fined £1,000 or prosecution with an unlimited fine.
Additionally, the Border Force said that it will retain the right to refuse entry to foreign citizens who are not U.K. residents during border checks.
What happens if a traveller doesn’t have somewhere to self-isolate for 14 days?
Interestingly, Home Office said that if a traveller’s accommodation doesn’t meet its requirements, the traveller will have to isolate in hotel accommodation arranged by the government. The accommodation will be at the traveller’s expense. If a traveller cannot afford it, they may not be allowed entry into the country.
At this time, acceptable isolation places are in hotels, with friends or with family.
How long will the restriction last?
The Home Secretary said that the isolation restrictions will be reviewed every three weeks. It’s possible that the restrictions as they stand now and when they take effect on 8 June could look entirely different than they do in three week’s time.
What happens to the tourism industry?
These isolation restrictions are devastating for the already-crippled aviation and tourism industry in the U.K. It’s possible that in the coming days and weeks, airlines could alter their relaunch plans.
In her address on Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the government will help support the travel sector.
“We will support [the sector] to find new way to open international travel and tourism”, Patel said.
What does this mean for summer holidays?
At this point, the FCO still advises against all non-essential international travel. Until the FCO draws back those advisories, Brits should not consider international holidays.
If, for example, the FCO does lift those advisories and these isolation restrictions are still in place, you will still be required to self-isolate upon your return to the U.K.
However, there is the possibility that these restrictions could evolve over time.
What about ‘air bridges’?
Earlier this week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was looking at potential “air bridges”, which would, in effect, allow travellers coming from low-risk countries to bypass these restrictions.
However, Patel said on Friday that those exemptions were not ready to be unveiled yet. She did leave those possibilities on the table for future consideration.
We finally have answers to many of our questions about this quarantine plan. One thing that remains clear, however, is that airlines and the travel industry are, in general, opposed to the mandatory 14-day isolation period for arriving travellers. The World Travel and Tourism Council expressed its concern about the requirement for travellers, saying that the mandatory 14-day self-isolation would damage confidence.
It’s all worth noting, however, that the FCO still advises against all non-essential travel, meaning that it’s still not advised for Brits to take to travelling.
Featured photo by Justin Tallis/Getty Images.
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