How the new border policy will work
The government has unveiled a major shift in border policy to be introduced next month in an effort to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 in the UK.
What has been announced?
All arrivals into the UK, bar a short list of exemptions, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days from 8 June.
How will it work?
All arriving passengers will be required to fill in a contact locator form with contact and travel information so they can be contacted if they, or someone they may have been in contact with, develops the disease.
Is it being enforced?
Yes. Anyone failing to comply with the conditions may face enforcement action. A breach of self-isolation would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine. The level of fine could increase if the risk of infection from abroad increases.
The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will set out their own enforcement approaches.
Border Force will undertake checks at the border and may refuse entry to any non-British citizen who refuses to comply with the regulations and is not resident in the UK. Failure to complete the contact locator form will be punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice.
Public health authorities will conduct random checks in England to ensure self-isolation compliance. Removal from the country will be considered as a last resort for foreign nationals who refuse to comply with the measures.
Why is this happening now?
The Home Office says that as the transmission rate in the UK decreases and the number of travellers arriving increases, imported cases may pose a larger threat as they could become a higher proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK and increase the spread of the disease.
Air passenger arrivals into the UK have plunged by 99% during the lockdown period, although at least 95,000 passengers arrived in April alone.
Why didn’t this happen before?
The Home Office chief scientific adviser, John Aston, says that while there was significant community transmission of the virus within the UK the impact of putting in place additional border restrictions would have been negligible to the spread of the virus.
However, the government has faced criticism for not putting in stricter measures in the first three months of the year when the pandemic began. In late February and early March the policy was to advise all arrivals from a shortlist of places, including Wuhan in China, to self isolate but this was withdrawn on 13 March. Since then, arrivals have been given leaflets at the border advising them of the lockdown restrictions.
Are there any exemptions?
There will be limited exemptions and a full list will be published on gov.uk. The Home Office has already confirmed that the following will be exempt:
• Road haulage and freight workers, to ensure the supply of goods is not affected.
• Medical professionals who are travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus.
• Anyone moving from within the common travel area, covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
• Seasonal agricultural workers, who will be able to self-isolate on the property where they are working.
How long will it last?
The government is going to review the measures every three weeks. Looking further ahead, it has said that it will look at other options including air bridges – agreements between countries that both have low transmission rates to recognise each other’s departure screening measures for passengers and thereby remove the need for quarantine measures for incoming passengers.