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The measures, which come into effect on June, were met with dismay in Europe and have come under fire from airlines, business groups and politicians alike. Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the travel restrictions at yesterday’s Downing Street briefing.
It is just about the worst thing government could do if their aim is to restart the economy
She said: “Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease.”
The French interior ministry responded by saying it regretted the UK’s decision and stood ready to impose reciprocal measures.
Italy, which at one point was the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus crisis, said it hoped Britain would rethink the rules and called for a “co-ordinated approach”.
Unlike many other countries, Britain has carried out few tests and checks on visitors, with quarantine limited only to arrivals from China at the start of the outbreak.
Spain and Italy have introduced rules that mean international arrivals must self-isolate for two weeks, while Ireland has also issued further details for its own quarantine proposals.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the blanket quarantine was deeply concerning and could be avoided with strong safety measures.
BCC Director General Adam Marshall said: “This approach will damage international business and investor confidence at a time when it is vital to demonstrate that the UK can open for business safely.”
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Labour said it supported the measures but said the Government’s handling of UK arrivals had “lacked urgency, coherence and clarity from the outset”.
Chief among industry critics are airline bosses, who have said the measures would have severe repercussions.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said the rules were “unenforceable and unpoliceable.”
Ryanair and easyJet have outlined plans to restart some flights in coming months. But under the quarantine plan, Virgin Atlantic will not restart until August at the earliest.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, said: “Introducing a quarantine at this stage makes no sense and will mean very limited international aviation at best.
“It is just about the worst thing government could do if their aim is to restart the economy.”
Under the new UK travel rules, all international arrivals, including returning Britons, will have to self-isolate for 14 days and provide details of where they will be staying.
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The quarantine will not apply to those arriving from the Irish Republic, or to freight drivers, medical professionals and seasonal agricultural workers.
The measures will be reviewed every three weeks.
Ms Patel said those in breach of the UK quarantine rules would face a £1,000 fine and said spot checks would be carried out by health and border officials.
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