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Travel firms say quarantine plan must be scrapped

People arriving at an airport

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Dozens of travel firms and hotel owners have said the UK should scrap plans to force visitors to quarantine on arrival.

From 8 June, people entering the UK from abroad will be told to isolate for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine.

But the holiday firms and hotels are worried that will be bad for business.

In a letter to the Home Secretary Priti Patel, they say the policy would reduce visitor numbers and may make it harder for Brits to travel abroad.

The letter, which is signed by more than 70 travel bosses, says the sector is “severely challenged”.

“The very last thing the travel industry needs is a mandatory quarantine imposed on all arriving passengers which will deter foreign visitors from coming here, deter UK visitors from travelling abroad, and most likely cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on British visitors,” the letter says.

Instead, it says the government’s decision not to force visitors to isolate on arrival, before the crisis put the country into lockdown, had supported the spread of the virus.

“Many people urged the government to impose quarantine regulations during the early phases of Covid-19,” the letter reads.

“Instead, no action was taken and flights from many infected countries were allowed to land, making it easy for thousands of potentially affected passengers to spread the virus into the wider UK community.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border.

“We continue to support businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world. However, it is right that we introduce these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.”

Do the quarantine rules apply to everybody?

There are a number of groups who are exempt, including:

  • Road haulage and freight workers
  • Medical officials who are travelling to help fight coronavirus
  • Anyone arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers if they self-isolate on the property where they are working

Initially, it was suggested the rules would also not apply to travellers from France. However, the government later insisted the quarantine measures will also apply to them.

The travel firms say the sector contributed £200bn to the UK economy last year, around 9% of gross domestic product.

But they say the government has been “woefully slow to react and has procrastinated to the point of absurdity” when considering support schemes for the industry during the crisis.

The letter says the government “must not exceed its mandate”.

“The people of this country do not wish to be prevented from travelling.”

“Quite simply it is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery before it is too late.”

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