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Coronavirus: UK quarantine for travellers to begin in weeks

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Criticism: Michael O’Leary

Criticism: Michael O’Leary

PA

Criticism: Michael O’Leary

Quarantine restrictions for international travellers arriving in the UK will apply from early June.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs a "blanket situation" will be in place initially but talks are ongoing about how they could be relaxed for countries with low Covid-19 rates.

Ministers want those arriving from overseas to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the UK, either in accommodation of their choice or provided by the Government if there are no other options.

Earlier, the chief executive of airline Ryanair said quarantine plans were "idiotic" and "unimplementable".

Michael O'Leary claimed the proposals have "no medical or scientific basis", and instead said face masks would "eliminate" the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Appearing before a committee of MPs yesterday, Mr Shapps confirmed 43,500 airline staff have been furloughed and the aviation sector faces "quite a long tail" as it emerges from the crisis. Approximately 20,000 British nationals are still in need of repatriation, the Cabinet minister added.

Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the Transport Committee, asked Mr Shapps in the Commons if he would "consider air bridges so that those entering the UK from countries where the infection rate is below the rate of one would not be subject to quarantine".

"This will boost confidence in aviation travel and target safety where it's most needed."

Mr Shapps replied: "Final details of the quarantine scheme will be released soon, come in early next month.

"It is the case we should consider further improvements - for example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country. So those are active discussions but will go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation."

However, Mr O'Leary has strongly criticised any moves to implement quarantine.

Ryanair announced last week that it will operate nearly 1,000 flights per day from July 1 subject to European countries lifting flight restrictions and "effective public health measures" being put in place at airports.

Mr O'Leary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's laughable that this Government can come up with any plans for a quarantine that will be strict and fully enforced when already they are exempting the Irish, the French...

"It is idiotic and it's unimplementable. You don't have enough police in the UK to implement a two-week lockdown.

"And what's really worrying is that a two-week lockdown has no medical or scientific basis to it in any event.

"If you really want to do something that's effective - wear masks."

Downing Street insisted there had never been an exemption for France, but said there would be an exemption for Ireland as part of the common travel area.

The Prime Minister's spokesman also told a Westminster briefing on Monday afternoon that the quarantine would be reviewed every three weeks.

"Any changes brought in will be subject to a rolling review every three weeks to ensure they are in line with the latest scientific advice and that they remain effective and necessary," he said.

The spokesman added: "The PM has said that those arriving in the UK from overseas will be required to self-isolate in order to prevent infections from abroad and a second wave of cases.

"The work on this is continuing and we will set out more details in due course."

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden earlier suggested the Government would legally enforce the quarantine rules, and said exemptions would be "very limited".

Belfast Telegraph