Airport chiefs say plans for 14-day quarantine of passengers would be ‘devastating’

9 May 2020, 07:55 | Updated: 9 May 2020, 13:56

Air passengers in protective gear at Heathrow Airport
Air passengers in protective gear at Heathrow Airport. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Air passengers arriving into the UK are set to face a two-week quarantine under the latest plan in the government's coronavirus lockdown strategy, it has emerged.

Reports today suggest people visiting the UK will have to fill in a digital form and declare an address where they will then be expected to self-isolate for 14 days.

It is not yet clear what measures could apply for British citizens upon their return to the UK, but key workers including lorry drivers or people in the shipping industry are expected to be exempt.

The Government also indicated it would reopen garden centres and start encouraging commuters to use bikes from as early as next week.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told LBC today: Britain was “quite slow to learn the lessons from other countries on how to tackle the virus.”

“It’s taken weeks of asking the government to do that [quarantine], if we were quicker about learning the lessons from other countries, we could have got some of these things sorted far, far more quickly and perhaps some lives would have been saved as a consequence.

Travellers could face fines of up to £1,000 and even deportation if spot checks later find they have flouted the rules, which the report claimed could be introduced in June.

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."

Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, which owns and operates Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, said: "It's important we have clarity on any plans to introduce quarantine measures, including how it will be implemented.

"If the Government believes quarantine will provide the necessary results and has medical evidence to support this, then there must be a clear review period to check it is working.

"This should include weekly reviews of the continuing need for the restrictions and publishing the evidence that supports the review decision.

"This measure will have a devastating effect on aviation, tourism and hospitality as inbound visitors will not come to the UK whilst this is in place.”

A spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport said: "We have received no official confirmation on the government's plans so we are unable to make a specific comment.

"However, we can confirm that Belfast International Airport has not been consulted on this move.

"We have written to government asking for clarification and outlining the serious effect this would have not only on our business but also, and more importantly, on the economy of Northern Ireland.

"We will continue to work with government on this issue and also with the airports trade association, the AoA."

Briefing reporters on Friday, Downing Street confirmed quarantining foreign visitors was being "looked at" as a way of guarding the country against a second peak in the transmission rate.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I think ministers have said the issue of looking to ensure, as we really drive down transmission in the UK, that we are able to ensure the virus is not being brought into the country from overseas is one they are actively considering."

The strict clampdown is set to be part of a "road map" revealed by the Prime Minister during his address to the nation on Sunday evening in which he will set out the stages for lifting the lockdown.

Boris Johnson will also recommend workers wear masks when they do return to work and when using public transport, The Daily Telegraph reported.

It has been confirmed that Mr Johnson will announce that garden centres will be allowed to open their doors to customers from Wednesday May 13.

Nursery bosses will have to ensure shoppers obey social distancing measures, such as keeping two metres away from others, and will be expected to put restrictions in place, including queuing systems and installing Perspex shields to protect till staff, in a similar way to supermarkets.

A senior Government source said: "Garden centres are typically open large open-air spaces where the risk of transmission of coronavirus is lower.

"With strict social distancing measures in place we believe they can open safely from next week."

And it is understood ministers are preparing to recommend that commuters use their bicycles for journeys to work, in a bid to reduce the number of people using public transport.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to use his appearance at the Downing Street briefing on Saturday to unveil a further £250 million for extra cycle lanes, while trials on the use of e-scooters on British roads are due to be fast-tracked, PA understands.

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Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice reiterated calls for people to stay at home for the remainder of the bank holiday weekend and to respect social distancing rules.

The call comes despite Met Office predictions that Saturday could be the hottest day of the year, with temperatures likely to hit 26C (78.8F).

In related news:

- Ministers looked to downplay differences emerging between UK nations on lockdown measures, stating there was no "need to get too worked up about timings of different announcements".

- Mr Eustice looked to temper expectations before the PM's Sunday announcement, warning there would be no "dramatic overnight change" to the restrictions in England.

- NHS England on Friday said a six-week-old baby with underlying health problems had died after testing positive for the virus, believed to be the youngest known victim in the UK, as the total number of deaths in all settings hit 31,241.

- The Government confirmed it had missed its 100,000 daily testing target for the sixth day in a row, carrying out 97,029 tests in the 24 hours to 9am on Friday.

- McDonald's drive-thru restaurants, which are starting to reopen, were branded as being "made for the social distancing situation we are in" by Mr Eustice.

Mr Eustice, facing questioning on Friday, said the UK was still "not out of the woods" when it came to the coronavirus threat.

His comments came after the devolved administration in Wales announced "modest adjustments" to the restrictions on movement, put in place across the UK to stem the transmission of Covid-19.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the three changes, coming into force on Monday, included allowing more than one form of exercise per day and permitting garden centres and public libraries to reopen.

But in Scotland, only alterations to exercise guidance are expected, while those in Northern Ireland have been told there will be just "nuanced changes" to the clampdown on movement.

Those in England will have to wait until 7pm on Sunday for the PM to formally declare the result of the UK Government's review into what rule changes should be brought in for England.

The PM has promised to exercise "maximum caution" when tinkering with the restrictions after official data suggested more than 36,000 people had died with coronavirus in the UK since the pandemic broke.

Some of the proposed measures to ease lockdown

International travel

Travellers coming in to the UK could be expected to quarantine for 14 days after their arrival, reports suggest.

Those visiting the UK will have to fill in a digital form and declare an address where they will then be expected to self-isolate for two weeks, according to The Times.

The Times reported that travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt from the quarantine.

Briefing reporters on Friday, Downing Street confirmed quarantining foreign visitors was being "looked at" as a way of guarding the country against a second peak in the transmission rate.

Passengers travelling through Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports are being ordered to cover their faces and wear gloves.

Heathrow Airport has said it will introduce temperature screening, which will initially be used to monitor arriving passengers in immigration halls but could also be deployed in areas for departures, connections and airport staff searches.

Shops

Garden centres will be allowed to reopen to customers from Wednesday May 13, Boris Johnson will announce.

Nursery bosses will have to ensure shoppers obey social distancing measures, such as keeping two metres away from others, and will be expected to put restrictions in place, including queuing systems and installing Perspex shields to protect till staff.

A senior Government source said: "Garden centres are typically open large open-air spaces where the risk of transmission of coronavirus is lower."

Last month, the British Retail Consortium published guidance for measures that retail stores could introduce to help with the transition once restrictions are lifted, including limiting entry and exit points and using floor markings to outline social distancing.

The workplace

Employees in non-essential industries who have been operating from home may be allowed to return to work - but they might be encouraged to wear face masks and opt for a bike ride to avoid public transport where possible.

Businesses wanting employees to return to the office could be made to stagger shifts, and ensure there are hand-washing facilities, hand gel and PPE supplies readily available.

Boris Johnson will recommend workers wear masks when they do return to work and when using public transport, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is set to use his appearance at the Downing Street briefing on Saturday to unveil a further £250 million for extra cycle lanes, while trials on the use of e-scooters on British roads are due to be fast-tracked, PA understands.

Pubs and restaurants

Fast food franchises including McDonald's and KFC have already announced they will begin opening locations for delivery services, with more sites likely to reopen in the coming weeks.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said this week that drive-thru restaurants such as McDonald's are "made for social distancing".

The popular fast food chain has conducted trials on reopening stores, with 15 restaurants opening for deliveries from next week.

Before reopening, the restaurants will be deep cleaned while new safety measures will be introduced such as Perspex screens and floor markings.

The reopening of pubs and bars however is unlikely to happen any time soon, with some reports claiming they will not return until August and September.

Schools

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said schools will not reopen in Wales in June.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he expects Wales's "very modest" lockdown easing to be in line with what Boris Johnson will announce for England.

Meanwhile unions sent a joint statement to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Friday, outlining a list of key measures which they say must be met before pupils in England can safely return to their desks.

It includes extra money for deep cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) and local powers to close schools if clusters of Covid-19 infections break out in a particular area.

Exercise and the outdoors

According to some reports, unlimited outdoor exercise will be allowed from Monday, however gyms and playgrounds are expected to remain closed.

Public Health England has signalled the "stay home" message could be abandoned and reports suggest people using benches, having picnics or sunbathing will no longer be asked to move on, provided they keep two metres apart.

Public transport

Bus and train timetables are likely to be adjusted and increased to help the system cope with an increase in passengers.

There could also be further guidance on wearing masks while travelling after a survey by rail and road watchdog Transport Focus found 51% of people would not be happy using trains and buses unless passengers were required to wear them.

It has been reported Boris Johnson will recommend workers wear masks when using public transport. He previously said face coverings will be "useful" when lockdown restrictions are eased.

Religious gatherings

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it is still too early to reopen religious services, with no date for when that could happen.

Earlier in the week, Church of England leaders said churches could reopen in a "phased" way once lockdown measures begin to be lifted.

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