What Does the UK’s New Travel Quarantine Rule Mean for the Travel Industry?

On Monday 8th of June, the UK imposed a new self-quarantine rule for travellers entering the country. All passengers arriving into the UK, including British nationals, will now have to self-isolate for 14 days at a fixed address or face a fine of up to £1000 (in England).

But just as the country begins to return to some resemblance of normality in time for summer, what does this quarantine rule mean for those with holidays booked in the coming months?

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, says the decision will help to protect public health now that incoming Coronavirus cases from abroad ”pose a more significant threat”. The idea is that now the UK’s COVID-19 cases are decreasing as the rate of infection is controlled, international travellers now pose a greater risk to our containment of the virus. If foreign visitors or Brits returning from abroad were to come and go from the UK as they please, the likelihood of a second wave would be probable. Other countries such as Greece, Canada and Australia have also introduced similar quarantine rules. So, if you are headed abroad on holiday, you may find you have to spend your vacation in your apartment or hotel room too… 

“Those with pre-booked medical treatment and UK residents who regularly travel abroad for work are also exempt”

Under these new measures, people entering the UK from abroad will have to quarantine for two weeks, and will not be permitted to go to work, public spaces, or even carry out essential shopping, as long as they can rely on others.

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Foreign seasonal agricultural workers, such as vital fruit pickers, will be exempt from the quarantine rule, as well as essential healthcare professionals and freight haulage workers. Those with pre-booked medical treatment and UK residents who regularly travel abroad for work are also exempt from self-isolating.

Arrivals from certain areas will also be excused. Those arriving from places considered the UK’s ‘Common Travel Areas’ (the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man) do not have to quarantine. This has been understood to be a loophole coined ‘the Dublin Dodge’ where it’s believed you can avoid self-isolating by heading to one of these places before arriving in the UK. However, travellers form these places are only exempt if they have been residing there for the past 14 days. So, unless you have the time and money to visit your transatlantic destination, followed by a further two weeks in one of these common travel areas, then you are still required to quarantine on your return.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the introduction of this new rule. Holidaymakers and members of the public keen to jet off abroad on their annual summer holiday have expressed their anger at such strict measures while other sectors within society begin to return to normality. Many feel the new rule is unjust, considering arrivals in the UK throughout lockdown have not faced the same stringent measures, even while the virus was at its peak.

It’s not only public outcry, cabinet ministers have been seriously divided on the matter too

Unsurprisingly, many airlines have also expressed fears that after such a tremulous few months, the travel quarantine will be the final nail in the coffin for businesses in the travel and tourism sector. With a recession on the horizon, many airlines, hotel chains and travel agencies already on the ropes are facing administration and collective redundancies. Likewise, the British Ports Association has voiced concerns that the new measures are ‘overzealous.’ It’s not only public outcry, cabinet ministers have been seriously divided on the matter too, many fearing detrimental and irreversible damage to the travel industry. Some Conservative MPs keen to get the economy back up and running claim that international travel will be a crucial step in boosting the British economy.

But many are wondering how enforcement of such a rule will actually take place. After all, is there anything preventing travellers from having a friend over in the garden to show them their holiday pics? And what harm does this pose if social distancing guidelines are observed? Well, plans have been announced for random home visits and spot-checks to those in quarantine to ensure they are abiding by the rules. Although, the likelihood of this is disputed, some believe surveillance of this kind is completely unenforceable. The idea of quarantine enforcers turning up unannounced at your door conjures unnerving images of a dystopian society akin to those within a George Orwell novel…

But this leads on to a question of morality. When we have already sacrificed so many freedoms over the past three months, is it fair of our government to ask even more? Or do they really have our best interests at heart, and a genuine concern for the country’s public health? This is an issue that becomes especially pertinent when we consider the old Dominic Cummings charade.

“Only time will tell what the future of travel will be…”

Millions of Brits would be jetting off abroad this summer. For most of those, a holiday takes time, effort and planning, not to mention the expense. Honeymoons, post-graduation getaways and city breaks are all likely to go on hold, postponed alongside festivals, concerts and weddings until summer 2021. But for some, there are copious reasons preventing them waiting another year to go abroad. Those people will be forced to take a further two weeks off work on their return home, despite the current economic crisis.

Maybe we should just let people enjoy their summer holiday while they can and while it is reasonably safe to do so, before a second wave hits. Or perhaps we should be more wary of a virus that has already proved so merciless. The travel quarantine rule is set to be reviewed at the end of the month, then every following three weeks. So, like everything else at this unpredictable moment in time, only time will tell what the future of travel will be.

Lilith Hudson

Featured image courtesy of Sigmama via Flickr. Image licence found here. No changes were made to the image. 

Main images courtesy of Jorge Láscar (license) and Paolo Gamba (license) via Flickr. No changes were made to the images.

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