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6th July 2020

Science Coronavirus: UK travel quarantine rules ‘not worth it’, says Theresa Villiers

Science Coronavirus: UK travel quarantine rules ‘not worth it’, says Theresa Villiers

Science

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UK airports have seen a sharp fall in custom

Quarantine for new arrivals in the UK has not been worth it, an ex-transport minister has said, after details of how few fines had been issued emerged.

So far, no UK police force has confirmed issuing any fines for people breaking the rules – and the UK Border Force has handed out two penalties.

The Home Office says it is seeing “a high level of compliance”.

But Tory MP Theresa Villiers said the travel industry had been “damaged” without cutting the Covid-19 risk.

It comes as government sources say that dozens of countries will be exempt from the UK’s travel quarantine from Monday – possibly as many as 75, according to sources.

But some of the countries on the list, likely to be published by the end of the week, still have restrictions on people travelling in from the UK. High-risk countries, such as the United States, could be categorised as red and travellers from these destinations will have to quarantine.

Since 8 June, most people arriving in the UK from abroad have had to quarantine at an agreed address for 14 days.

Science Flouting rules

Those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, part of the Common Travel Area with the UK, are exempted, unless they have left the country in the last fortnight.

Arrivals are expected to fill out a passenger locator form, listing the address where they will quarantine.

If they don’t, then they are liable to be fined £100.

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Reuters

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Theresa Villiers says quarantine ‘hasn’t been worth it’

Public Health England and police forces have joint responsibility for making sure new arrivals abide by the quarantine.

If someone is thought to be flouting the rules police can issue a £1,000 fine.

Press reports last week suggested no UK police forces had issued fines for breaking the rules.

Science No enforcement action

The BBC contacted all 43 forces in England and Wales to find out how many fines they had issued.

So far, 12 forces have replied, including Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Kent – areas with major ports and airports. The forces say they have not handed out any fines, with some adding that there had been no enforcement action whatsoever.

No fines have been issued under the international quarantine law by the police in Scotland or Northern Ireland either.

The UK Border Force issued its first two fines under the regulations last weekend at the Eurotunnel terminal in France.

Theresa Villiers, the former environment and Northern Ireland secretary, who was transport minister in the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, said the quarantine policy “hasn’t been worth it”.

“So far this policy has caused damage to the travel industry, and inconvenience for holiday-makers, without any evidence of it working effectively to cut Covid risk,” she told BBC News.

Having been one of the MPs urging Home Secretary Priti Patel to delay the restrictions when they were introduced a month ago, she added: “Air bridges needed to be in place from the start to deliver a risk-based approach which imposed quarantine only on flights from places with high rates of infection.”

Science ‘Do the right thing’

The National Police Chiefs’ Council is expected to publish full figures for forces in England and Wales in the coming weeks.

In a statement the NPCC said: “The overwhelming majority of people will do the right thing and follow the rules, which are helping to protect the NHS and save lives.

“As the government has made clear, it will not be the role of police to conduct spot checks on those who should be isolating.

“Only if public health authorities suspect someone is not following the restrictions will police become involved.”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “The quarantine system is informed by science, backed by the public and designed to keep us all safe.

“We are seeing a high level of compliance and we expect this to continue as the vast majority of people will play their part to help stop the spread of this disease.”

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