Airlines threaten court action over quarantine


The UK’s three largest airlines have threatened legal action over new quarantine measures for passengers arriving in the UK, which came into force on Monday.

A pre-action protocol letter was sent on Friday, signed by British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair. In a statement they claimed the measures are ‘disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK’.

Passengers at Heathrow baggage reclaim

The airlines added: ‘We challenge the UK Government on a number of defective measures, including (i) the fact the this quarantine is more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have COVID-19, (ii) that, for example, if you are a French or German worker commuting weekly to the UK you will be exempted, and (iii) that the UK Govt is banning people from countries with lower R rates than the UK.

‘We urge the UK Government to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on UK’s tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis.’

The Government said the self-isolation measures are designed to prevent new cases being brought in from abroad and to prevent a second wave of the virus.

Announcing the measures last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘To get the country and our economy back up and running, we must do everything to avoid a second wave of the virus, because if we get this wrong we will all suffer, and that’s why introducing these measures now is so important.

‘These measures will be reviewed every few weeks, and we are working with the transport industry to see how we can introduce agreements with other countries when safe to do so, so we can go abroad and tourists can come here.’

The measures introduced include:

  • all arrivals, bar a short list of exemptions, will be required to complete an online locator form to supply contact details, travel details and the address of where they will self-isolate for 14 days. Where international travellers are unable to safely self-isolate in their own accommodation the Government will support them finding appropriate accommodation at their own expense
  • passengers arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance. Public Health England will contact people at random to ensure they understand the requirements and are self-isolating. Removal from the country would be considered as a last resort for foreign nationals who refuse to comply with these public health measures
  • anyone failing to comply with the mandatory conditions may face enforcement action. A breach of self-isolation would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine
  • the level of fine could increase if the risk of infection from abroad increases. The devolved administrations will set out their own enforcement approaches
  • Border Force will undertake checks at the border and may refuse entry to any non-resident foreign nationals who refuses to comply with these regulations and isn’t resident in the UK. Failure to complete the form is also punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice

The rules do not apply those travelling from within the common travel area (CTA) in Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, unless they have arrived in the CTA from overseas within the last 14 days, in which case they will have to provide locator details and self-isolate on arrival here. The Government said this will help make sure that those who could have come into contact with the virus overseas cannot bypass the self-isolation measures.

Although the measures are now in place across the UK, enforcement measures will be set individually by the devolved administrations.

The measures will be subject to review, with the first review by 29 June. Officials said they will take a number of factors into account within the reviews to ensure that the risk of imported cases is suitably low.

The Government said it continues to look at other options to increase travel when it is deemed safe to do so. These include arrangements, known as ‘air bridges’ or international travel corridors, which would remove self-isolation measures and safely open up routes to and from countries with low transmission rates.

'Agreement would need to be made with individual countries before these measures take effect and the UK would seek assurances that any safe corridors met the needs of both countries.'

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