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Saturday, 9 May 2020

UK Aviation Cries Out Against Passengers Quarantine



The aviation industry is calling on the government to provide greater clarity on plans to quarantine for a fortnight all travellers coming to Britain, amid concerns that the measures could have severe repercussions for the travel and tourism industries.

It has been reported that anyone entering the UK, including Britons returning home, will soon have to self-isolate for 14 days due to the coronavirus crisis.

Airlines UK, which represents British Airways, EasyJet and other UK-based airlines, said the proposal would “effectively kill international travel to and from the UK, and cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry and wider UK economy”.

It added: “Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted.

“It will also make it all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon, thereby setting back the UK’s economic recovery still further.”

The ISU union - which represents borders, immigration and customs staff - called for greater transparency on the quarantine plans.

The union’s professional officer, Lucy Moreton, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “At the moment this is just a leak, so we haven’t had any particular information.

“There’s a little bit of a discrepancy about whether this is airline passengers only or whether this is going to include individuals arriving by boat.

“And what are we going to do with the irregular migrants who don’t have a private house to self-isolate in?”

She also questioned how the quarantine system would be implemented, saying: “There’s no way for that e-gate to collect an address so we’d have to do something, either shut those down completely or post staff either before or after to collect addresses.”

Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee said she has not received any details yet about a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travellers into the UK.

She told BBC Breakfast: “Although we haven’t had any details yet there’s been a lot of speculation that there will be a 14-day quarantine for passengers returning to the UK.

“That would have a really big impact on our sector.”

Ms Dee added: “We see passenger numbers typically down by about 98% now in the UK.”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she had been asking for clarification about the government’s plans to deal with flights coming into Britain for weeks.

“I raised it with the minister for the fifth time on Thursday because it’s caused real confusion,”she said.

Boris Johnson is expected to say in an address to the nation that passengers arriving at airports and ports, including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Under the measures, which are likely to come into force in early June, travellers will have to provide the address at which they will self-isolate on arrival.

The authorities will conduct spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules face fines of up to £1,000 or even being deported. However, the aviation and holiday industry has warned that the move could be catastrophic for business. It is likely to end any lingering hopes that Britons could take their summer holidays abroad this year.

All travellers coming to Britain will be quarantined for a fortnight in an effort to avoid a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson will announce tomorrow.

The prime minister will say in an address to the nation that passengers arriving at airports and ports, including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Under the measures, which are likely to come into force in early June, travellers will have to provide the address at which they will self-isolate on arrival.

The authorities will conduct spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules face fines of up to £1,000 or even being deported. However, the aviation and holiday industry has warned that the move could be catastrophic for business. It is likely to end any lingering hopes that Britons could take their summer holidays abroad this year.

Mr Johnson’s “road map” for ending lockdown restrictions will be revealed at 7pm tomorrow. He has vowed to move with “maximum caution” as he reopens the economy. Some measures will be lifted next week, enabling people to exercise more than once a day and visit garden centres, and he will drop the “stay at home, save lives” slogan.

Many of the main restrictions will remain until June, when the phased return of schools is expected to begin. Allowing people from more than one household to mix has slipped down the order of priorities amid concerns about the complexity of the scheme and the difficulty in enforcing it.

Cabinet ministers are increasingly concerned that they are being kept in the dark about the science behind lifting the lockdown. One minister said that if felt like a “Potemkin cabinet” in which decisions were made before ministers had met.

A final decision on how the government’s furlough scheme will be phased out is also expected to be made ahead of Mr Johnson’s announcement tomorrow, according to the Financial Times. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said earlier this week that he was preparing to “wean” Britons off the scheme, warning that the nation was becoming “addicted” to it. However, there were concerns that such a move could put millions of jobs at risk if companies are forced to reopen suddenly during the current challenging economic conditions.

The paper said that ministers have raised the possibility of the scheme being phased out gradually over the coming months while also “bringing in greater flexibility to all some workers to return part-time initially”.

In other developments:

• A six-week-old baby with an underlying health condition became the youngest known victim of coronavirus in Britain as the death toll rose by 626 to 31,241.

• A leading epidemiologist claimed that two thirds of cases in this country had been undiagnosed.

• The legalisation of e-scooters is to be fast-tracked and £250 million will be invested in new cycle lanes.

• Card transactions have fallen by a third, latest data shows, with Oxfordshire the worst affected county.

The government has faced criticism for allowing commercial flights into Britain without requiring passengers to be quarantined or face temperature checks. Last month it was revealed that about 15,000 were arriving each day.

Ministers have said that making such a move earlier would not have made a difference because of the prevalence of the virus in the country. They believe that once the rate of transmission has fallen significantly a tougher approach will be required.

Arrivals will be required to provide the details of where they are self-isolating on a digital form. The forms will be checked at airports, ports and Eurostar stations.

Travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt, as will lorry drivers bringing crucial supplies. There is no indication of how long the scheme will last.

The measures mirror those introduced in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. France has also announced a 14-day quarantine for travellers from this Monday, although Britons and those arriving from states within the EU’s free-travel Schengen zone will be exempt.

Austria requires arrivals to be quarantined for two weeks unless they produce a medical certificate confirming that they are free of coronavirus. Vienna airport charges incoming passengers €190 to take a coronavirus test.

A government source said: “These measures will help protect the British public and reduce the transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response.”

The move is being resisted by the aviation industry. British Airways’s parent company said this week that it would not restart its main flying programme into the country if people were forced to self-isolate for a fortnight. Ministers have been urged to review the procedures each week to make sure they are still needed.

Airlines UK, which represents British Airways, EasyJet and other UK airlines, said that a mandatory quarantine “would effectively kill international travel to and from the UK and cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry and wider UK economy”.

It added: “Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted. It will also make it all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon, thereby setting back the UK’s economic recovery still further.”

The number of flights in and out of the country has declined by about 90 per cent since the lockdown started. However, there are indications that airline traffic is slowly coming back to life. On Wednesday this week there were 714 flights in and out, the highest number for a single day since the lockdown was imposed.

On Thursday the Office for National Statistics will publish the first results of a mass surveillance operation to track the spread of the infection.

Boris Johnson is expected to say in an address to the nation that passengers arriving at airports and ports, including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

Under the measures, which are likely to come into force in early June, travellers will have to provide the address at which they will self-isolate on arrival.

The authorities will conduct spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules face fines of up to £1,000 or even being deported. However, the aviation and holiday industry has warned that the move could be catastrophic for business. It is likely to end any lingering hopes that Britons could take their summer holidays abroad this year.



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