The British quarantine

“Even by its own increasingly chaotic standards, the mess into which the Government has got itself over its new quarantine rules takes some beating,” said The Times. The new regulations – which came into force this week – require travellers to Britain to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. This is “the wrong policy at the wrong time”. A 14-day quarantine would have “made sense” at the start of the pandemic – but instead, over the past three months, Britain, almost alone in Europe, continued to allow new arrivals from anywhere in the world, including virus hot-spots such as China and Iran, without so much as a temperature check.

Now, at the very moment that outbreaks in many popular travel destinations have been brought under control, and restrictions are being lifted across Europe, the Government has finally imposed a quarantine of its own. It will heap further misery on British tour operators and airlines, and will deter much-needed foreign visitors from coming to Britain during the summer months.

Tough border controls are popular with voters. According to YouGov, eight out of ten members of the public support the proposed £1,000 fines for failure to self-isolate on arrival in the UK, with the highest backing (83%) found among the working-class voters who gave Boris Johnson his huge majority in December. So the measures appealed to a PM keen to “find some ‘good news’ to announce amid growing criticism of the Government’s response to the pandemic”.

But they have gone down like a lead balloon elsewhere.  The policy has enraged airlines (BA, Ryanair and easy-Jet are threatening legal action), frustrated travellers and upset lawmakers – including many Tory MPs fearful of the economic damage. Border officials say it is unenforceable: they will have no capacity to check whether addresses provided by travellers are genuine. The alternative is to bar only those from high-risk countries.  This would be politically tricky: it would anger the US and President Trump. Either way, it seems likely that, with so many ranged against it, the policy will be “watered down, if not scrapped”, in time “to salvage at least some of the summer holiday season”.   (The Week, 13 June 2020)

My comment:  If you only have a short vacation and fancy a trip to England you will enjoy little but the inside of an hotel room.

Almost every day we are asked whether we will be visiting London this summer, and we explain we don’t think it is safe (the air bit, especially).  Air travel and two week’s quarantine is enough of a deterrent, but the likelihood of further spikes in the virus as well persuades me to stay put. Neither the American nor the British government have proved themselves managerially capable of fighting the virus effectively. This comes as no surprise.  In the old days, when scientists would have had the last word, one could have trusted government.  Not now.  We are staying at at home.



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