A 14-day quarantine period for all travellers coming to Britain would have a devastating impact on both the UK aviation industry and wider economy, a trade body has warned.
The Government will reportedly announce the mandatory quarantine as part of measures aimed at avoiding a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Times said Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make the announcement in an address to the nation on Sunday, but there is confusion around the detail, with industry insiders calling for a “credible” and “clear” exit plan.
Under the measures, which are expected to be implemented within weeks, all passengers arriving at airports and ports will be required to provide an address at which they will immediately self-isolate for 14 days.
The newspaper reports that “authorities will conduct spot checks”, with punishments for those not adhering to the rules including “fines of up to £1,000” and deportation.
Quarantine would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economyKaren Dee, Airport Operators Association
Airlines UK said it had been told by the Government that the plan will be in place by the end of the month or early June.
A spokesman for Airlines UK said: “We need to see the detail of what they are proposing.
“We will be asking for assurances that this decision has been led by the science and that Government has a credible exit plan, with weekly reviews to ensure the restrictions are working and still required.”
However, Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee said she has not received any details yet about the quarantine plan.
Ms Dee said: “Quarantine would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy.
“If the Government believe quarantine is medically necessary, then it should be applied on a selective basis following the science, there should be a clear exit strategy and the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated.
“The Government should commit to a weekly review of the quarantine measures and publish the evidence that informs the review’s outcome.
Make no mistake, a 14-day quarantine period for passengers arriving at the UK would cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry. See our statement here: https://t.co/4oFJIgr2jX— Airlines UK (@airlines_UK) April 27, 2020
“If quarantine is a necessary tool for fighting Covid-19, then the Government should act decisively to protect the hundreds of thousands of airport-related and travel-related jobs across the UK.
“These measures should include granting immediate business rates relief to airports and related service providers as well as relief from Civil Aviation Authority charges for the whole aviation sector.”
A Heathrow spokesman said: “Any measures agreed must meet three key tests: they must be medically effective, meet public expectations and be deliverable by airports.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support the Government in tackling the health crisis whilst keeping vital trading routes open for British businesses in every corner of the UK.
“Heathrow is more than just an airport, it is the heart that keeps economic blood flowing for this country and it is vital our industry has the ability to bounce back quickly when the UK is ready to build back Britain together.”
Heathrow bosses believe there needs to be a common international standard for health in aviation and that the UK Government could provide a lead in defining this.
The airport will introduce temperature screening, initially to monitor passengers arriving in immigration halls but it could also be deployed in areas for departures, connections and airport staff searches.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: “The Government needs to work closely with airlines, airport operators and Border Force to implement practical solutions to stop the spread of this virus.
“Ill-thought through proposals will fail as soon as they are rolled out, leaving the country back in a precarious situation.
“This sort of policy should have been worked through weeks ago.
“It’s systematic of a Government that was too slow to enter the lockdown, too slow to get vital protective equipment to NHS, social care and other key workers, and too slow on testing and tracing to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“It will take a long time to recover from the impact of the virus. The Government must come up with a comprehensive financial support package for the aviation sector and its supply chain which supports almost a quarter of a million jobs.”
A Home Office spokeswoman told the PA news agency: “We do not comment on leaks. The focus remains on staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
The Times reported that travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt from the quarantine.
The ISU union – which represents borders, immigration and customs staff – called for clarity on the plans.
ISU professional officer Lucy Moreton said there is a discrepancy about whether it will apply to airline passengers only or whether it will also include people arriving by boat.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “What are we going to do with the irregular migrants who don’t have a private house to self-isolate in?”
Seemingly frustrated about no concrete information, she added: “I’m hoping someone will get round to telling the staff at some point.”