Imposing obligatory quarantines on people arriving in the UK is critical to prevent a second wave of the new coronavirus, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has warned writing for The Telegraph with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, as she prepares to talk MPs into backing the policy on Wednesday.
Patel insisted the robust policy, albeit considered controversial within the government, would enable Britain to get a final grip on the spread of the virus and ultimately return to normalcy sooner, which would mean tourism would be "up and running faster". She acknowledged that the move would mean certain "challenges" for the industry, going on to warn against "throwing away" the UK's progress in the COVID battle:
"We will all suffer if we get this wrong and that is why it is crucial that we introduce these measures now. Let's not throw away our progress in tackling this deadly virus. We owe it to the thousands who have died".
She promised that the government will review the bulk of measures under consideration while looking at global indications rates, other countries' experience in exerting control over the disease spread, as well as the latest scientific advances to then consider "further options such as international air corridors", first floated by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
"But as the prime minister has outlined, we must take it one step at a time. We must keep the country safe from potentially infected passengers unknowingly spreading the virus to others in society and ensure that the public's health always comes first", Patel stressed.
She is understood to have Johnson's backing, with the prime minister noting Tuesday, that people can enjoy "wonderful" holidays in the UK rather than abroad.
However, tensions have been high in the Cabinet over the prospective quarantine, under which beginning on Monday people arriving in the UK must self-isolate for a fortnight.
Public Health England admitted yesterday that call centre workers employed in the private sector would be in charge of policing the quarantine restrictions by phoning a random selection - purportedly one in five - of those who have entered the country to make sure that they are abiding by the rules.
It is understood that under the proposed guidelines, only about 10 percent of those arriving in the UK will be checked by the Border Force to see if they have duly provided details of a contact address while in the UK, with a special locator form to be filled out either online or to be printed out beforehand.
Quarantining and 'Air Corridor' Debacle
Critics, meanwhile, have vehemently insisted that the policy should have been adopted at the start of the outbreak. Professor Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College modeller whose predictions led to Prime Minister Johnson introducing a lockdown in mid-March, told peers on Tuesday that in late February and early March "thousands of infected individuals came into the country" from Spain and Italy and not, as thought, from China, Asia, and the US.
A YouGov poll suggested Patel's measures enjoy significant public support, with 63 percent saying they favoured quarantine for most travellers, with a quarter arguing it should be restricted to countries with high virus rates. Only four percent spoke out against any quarantine measures whatsoever, joining the opposing chorus of Britain's biggest travel and hospitality businesses, which warned quarantines would prove disastrous for the economy. They complained that it would force them to lay off up to 60 percent of their staffers, even with air bridges promised by late June.
As Whitehall is full-on working on the air corridor scheme, Home Office sources were keen to stress that air corridors or air bridges may not meet the end of the month deadline, potentially sparking some Tories’ fury. Several Cabinet members said it was essential air bridges were put in place before July and Downing Street was understood to be open to that possibility.