Passenger at Heathrow Airport earlier this year, after being rescued from a cruise ship
The government is looking for ways to loosen 14-day quarantine rules for people entering Britain over the coming months, BBC Newsnight has learned. From Monday, most people who arrive by plane, ferry or train – including British citizens – must exile. But some lawmakers and businesses have expressed concern about the plan, warning it would damage the travel industry. One government source told Newsnight that the ministers looked at ways around the quarantine virus quarantine. This could include corridors traveling to countries with low infection rates, or expanding the list of workers who are exempt from the 14 day rule. Every change will be guided by science but a possible date for an easing of rules could be July 20, to coincide with a school holiday, Newsnight was told. Quarantine measures take effect on June 8 and will apply to most people, although some professions are excluded, such as truck drivers, seasonal agricultural workers, and coronavirus medics. Also freed will be people who come from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Travel must notify the British government where they will live and if they do not provide an address, officials will arrange accommodation. In England, there will be random spot checks and fines of £ 1,000, while governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can sentence themselves. The plan is expected to be set in more detail on Tuesday when it is put before Parliament. MPs will return to Westminster on Tuesday after weeks of virtual proceedings. Additional guidance on what will be permitted to be done is also expected to be established, including that travelers will be allowed to take public transportation if they cannot reach their accommodation by other means. The quarantine plan will be reviewed every three weeks, with the first review of the plan at the end of June.
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Announcing the plan last month, Interior Minister Priti Patel said the move would “reduce the risk of cases crossing our borders”. But since then the plan has faced criticism from some members of the government’s own parliament and the travel and aviation industry. The former cabinet minister told Newsnight that his idea was crazy and suggested that the government would not “risk this”. Meanwhile, more than 200 business leaders have called on the government to overturn the policy, saying it is “deeply concerned about our economy and our country”. The group of companies – including The Ritz hotels and high-class travel agency Kuoni – want the government instead to introduce “air bridges”, an arrangement that allows people from countries with low levels of coronavirus to travel. Last month, airline bosses including EasyJet, Tui, Jet2 and Virgin Atlantic also said they had “serious objections” about the “comprehensive approach” for all arrivals to Britain.
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At the weekend, former environment secretary Theresa Villiers told BBC Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4 that she thought quarantine rules should be targeted at flights “from Covid hotspots”. He also said the government “is actively looking at air bridges”. BBC transport correspondent Tom Burridge said reports in Portuguese media “suggest the air bridge with Portugal is on the cards”. However, he added, Britain was behind other countries in Europe in terms of controlling the virus and, in negotiations, “the ball might not be in a British court”.
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A government spokesman said earlier: “These cross-governmental public health measures are designed to keep transmission rates down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad and help prevent a second wave of devastating coronaviruses.” All our decisions are based on the latest scientific evidence. “The list of exceptions has been agreed by all government departments in consultation with their stakeholders who will ensure critical supplies and services can continue and will continue to be reviewed.” That came as the number of people who had died after testing positive for the virus in the UK reached 39,045. On Monday, nurseries and primary schools throughout the UK open doors for more students for the first time in more than 10 weeks.
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