How the new bor­der pol­icy will work

The Guardian - - News | Coronaviru­s - Jamie Gri­er­son

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.

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