As Boris Johnson appeared to concede that travel quarantine would be a “three-week wonder” travel businesses have demanded that the scheme should be scrapped before it even begins.
Leaders of high-profile companies call the plan for 14 days of self-isolation “poorly thought-out, wholly detrimental to industry recovery and more or less unworkable”.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, announced the quarantine scheme on 22 May. From 8 June, almost all arrivals to the UK will be required to self-isolate at home, out of direct contact with family and friends, for two weeks.
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More than 70 travel industry chairs, chief executives and general managers have written to Ms Patel urging the immediate withdrawal of the plan.
The figures include Edward Orr, chair of Mr & Mrs Smith, the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte and Derek Jones – chief executive of Der Touristik UK, which includes Kuoni, Kirker Holidays and Carrier.
The general managers of top London hotels including Savoy. Claridge’s, the Connaught, the Ritz, the Corinthia, and the Shangri-La in the Shard have joined the campaign.
They write: “The very last thing the travel industry needs is a mandatory quarantine imposed on all arriving passengers which will deter foreign visitors from coming here, deter UK visitors from travelling abroad and, most likely, cause other countries to impose reciprocal quarantine requirements on British visitors, as France has already announced.”
“Many people urged the government to impose quarantine regulations during the early phases of Covid-19. Instead, no action was taken and flights from infected countries were allowed to land, disgorging thousands of potentially affected passengers into the wider community.”
Authorities including the World Health Organisation and the UK Department of Health recommend quarantine only in the earlier stages of an epidemic.
But Boris Johnson defended the quarantine policy, telling the Commons Liaison Committee: “The reason we didn’t do it then was because the scientific advice was very clear that it would make no difference to the arrival of the epidemic, or vanishingly little difference to the arrival of the epidemic. It might delay it by a bit but it would still come.”
The prime minister appeared to concede, though, that the blanket quarantine plan would remain in place for only 21 days before it is replaced by a series of so-called “air bridges” – bilateral treaties with popular destinations allowing for the 14-day self-isolation rule to be sidestepped.
Mr Johnson said: “We’ll have to agree them with the other countries concerned but we’ll also have to make progress in attacking the disease. And we’ll have to have evidence that the other countries are in as least a good a position as we are.”
Almost all countries have a far lower rate of infection and number of fatalities that the UK.
One senior aviation figure called the quarantine plan “a three-week wonder”. The self-isolation requirement can be avoided either by the use of the so-called “Dublin dodge,” involving a brief visit to the Irish capital, or by arriving before midnight on 7 June.
British Airways has offered passengers due to fly in from 8 to 28 June the chance to reschedule for an earlier date free of charge.
Labour has welcomed the quarantine plan.