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Mon, 19 October 2020

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Tory backlash mounts over ‘blanket’ coronavirus quarantine for people entering the UK

Tory backlash mounts over ‘blanket’ coronavirus quarantine for people entering the UK

Those arriving on the UK will have to self-isolate for two weeks (PA)

4 min read

The Government is facing a growing Conservative rebellion over its plans to impose a “blanket” 14-day quarantine on everybody who arrives in the UK.

Former transport minister Theresa Villiers on Sunday night branded the proposals an “over-reaction”, amid anger from aviation firms and reports that more than 50 Tory MPs are urging a rethink.

Home Secretary Priti Patel will this week lay the regulations in Parliament imposing the quarantine.

It will see all international arrivals, including Brits returning to the UK, required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Police will be given the power to carry out spot-checks and hand out fines to enforce the measures, which are set to come into force from June 8.

But Conservative MPs and representatives of the aviation and tourism sectors have urged the Government to reconsider.

Ms Villiers, a former Cabinet minister, told the BBC’s Westminster Hour that the quarantine rules should instead be “targeted on flights from Covid hotspots”.

“I think we really do need to find ways to ease travel between this country and other countries like Italy and Spain and France where not only are there important business connections but people do desperately want to be able to take their summer holiday,” she said.

The senior Conservative added: “I appreciate why the Government is bringing in quarantine but I do think that applying it in a blanket way across the board is an over-reaction. 

“And my understanding is that the Government is actively looking at air bridges and to try to target this requirement in a more focused way and I really hope they’re able to do that rather than bringing it in across the board.”

Huw Merriman, Conservative chair of the transport select committee, told The Telegraph: "Personally, I think it’s the wrong policy at this time and disproportionately impacts the economy.   

“We should ditch blanket quarantine and self-distancing on planes and have different measures such as air bridges, compulsory PPE and temperature testing at airports."  

Fellow Conservative MP Henry Smith has formed a cross-party group to campaign on the issue, and told The Telegraph the Government should “think again and listen to the growing groundswell of opinion against quarantine measures”.

Conservative MPs reported to be opposed to the quarantine include former ministers David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, Nus Ghani and Steve Baker.

As the changes will be made through a statutory instrument, the quarantine plan will not automatically go to a vote when it is laid before Parliament on Tuesday.

But Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle could decide that the issue is contentious enough to merit a debate. 

'LATEST SCIENTIFIC ADVICE'

The Tory concern over the proposals came as the International Air Transport Association (Iata) published research showing that Brits are “relatively keen to travel again”.

The study, shared with The Times, found that 48 percent of the public would be willing to travel within a “month or two” of the Covid-19 threat being controlled - above the international average. 

Simon McNamara, UK and Ireland country manage at Iata, said: “As the concern about Covid-19 recedes, if the quarantine is still in place people are not going to travel.”

He added: “Governments seem to have a stark choice. They cannot pretend that quarantine enables their international travel markets to open up, because the evidence is quite simply not there. If they persist with quarantine it is effectively the same as locking down your country.”

And Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said: “The quarantine will destroy jobs and put back the recovery at the exact time that other countries are opening up their borders. It is just about the worst thing they could do if the aim is to restart the economy and get aviation and tourism moving again.”

A government spokesperson said: “These cross-government public health measures are designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad and help prevent a devastating second wave of coronavirus.

“All of our decisions have been based on the latest scientific evidence.”

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