Bri­tain says ar­rivals must quar­an­tine for two weeks

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

LONDON — Peo­ple ar­riv­ing in the U.K. next month will have to quar­an­tine them­selves for 14 days and could face an un­lim­ited fine if they fail to com­ply, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment an­nounced Fri­day.

The quar­an­tine plan has sparked con­fu­sion and crit­i­cism from air­lines, air­ports and lock­down-weary Bri­tons won­der­ing whether they will get to take a va­ca­tion abroad this sum­mer.

Bri­tain did not close its bor­ders dur­ing the worst of the coun­try’s coro­n­avirus out­break, which has been linked to more than 36,000 deaths in the U.K. It is in­tro­duc­ing its quar­an­tine just as many other Euro­pean coun­tries are start­ing to open up again.

Home Sec­re­tary Priti Pa­tel said the rules will take ef­fect June 8 and will ap­ply to ar­rivals from all coun­tries ex­cept Ireland, which has a long-stand­ing free-move­ment agree­ment with the United King­dom. Ireland is ex­pected to an­nounce sim­i­lar mea­sures for peo­ple ar­riv­ing there.

Pa­tel said that as trans­mis­sion of the virus within Bri­tain slows, the quar­an­tine will help pre­vent im­ported cases and stop a “dev­as­tat­ing” sec­ond wave of the virus.

There will be ex­emp­tions for truck­ers and freight work­ers, front-line medics and sea­sonal agri­cul­tural la­bor­ers.

Bri­tons re­turn­ing from over­seas will also have to stay home and avoid mix­ing with oth­ers for 14 days un­der the mea­sures, which will be re­viewed ev­ery three weeks.

That is bad news for those hop­ing for a for­eign sum­mer hol­i­day. Pa­tel said at a news con­fer­ence that the gov­ern­ment ad­vice re­mained “very clear: noth­ing but essential travel” out­side the coun­try.

Ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers will have to pro­vide con­tact de­tails and will be checked on reg­u­larly dur­ing the two weeks, the gov­ern­ment said. They will also be en­cour­aged to download a con­tact-trac­ing app that au­thor­i­ties are de­vel­op­ing — if the glitch­filled phone ap­pli­ca­tion is ever put into use.

Breaches can be pun­ished with a $1,220 spot fine, or by pros­e­cu­tion and an un­lim­ited fine.

There has been con­fu­sion about the U.K. pol­icy, af­ter the gov­ern­ment ini­tially said it would not ap­ply to peo­ple ar­riv­ing from France. That prompted a re­buke from the Euro­pean Union, which wants a co­or­di­nated pol­icy across the 27-na­tion bloc.

Bri­tain later said France would not be ex­empt.

Air­lines have warned that the Bri­tish move could hob­ble their ef­forts to re­build a busi­ness dev­as­tated by pan­demic-re­lated travel re­stric­tions.

Tim Alder­slade, chief ex­ec­u­tive of trade body Air­lines U.K., said a blan­ket quar­an­tine was “just about the worst thing gov­ern­ment could do if their aim is to restart the econ­omy.”

Many Euro­pean na­tions shut their bor­ders in March as the pan­demic took hold and are now eas­ing those re­stric­tions.

Greece’s long-awaited tourist sea­son will be­gin on June 15 with the open­ing of sea­sonal ho­tels and the ar­rival of the first for­eign vis­i­tors, while in­ter­na­tional flights will be­gin head­ing di­rectly for hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions from July 1. Ar­riv­ing pas­sen­gers won’t be rou­tinely screened for the virus but could be sub­ject to sam­ple test­ing.

Some coun­tries’ plans to re­open to for­eign vis­i­tors are spurring na­tional and re­gional ten­sions as the sum­mer tourist sea­son ap­proaches.

Italy, the one­time epi­cen­ter of Europe’s pan­demic, is open­ing to Euro­pean travel on June 3, the same date that it is al­low­ing Ital­ians to move out­side their re­gions for plea­sure.

But some re­gions are tak­ing pre­cau­tions to en­sure that the sud­den re­open­ing doesn’t cre­ate new in­fec­tion clus­ters. Sar­dinia’s gov­er­nor has sug­gested he might re­quire vis­i­tors to the is­land to cer­tify they had tested neg­a­tive for the virus within the last week, or sub­mit to a test on ar­rival.

The Tus­cany re­gional gov­ern­ment says on its web­site that any vis­i­tor from abroad or an­other Ital­ian re­gion must un­dergo quar­an­tine for 14 days. It’s un­known if Tus­cany, which fills with Bri­tish and Ger­man tourists in sum­mer, will re­vise that rule as June 3 ap­proaches.

France says it may quar­an­tine peo­ple ar­riv­ing from an area “where the virus is cir­cu­lat­ing,” but it has not pub­lished a list of tar­geted ar­eas. The French pres­i­dency said those com­ing from EU coun­tries, from Bri­tain and from na­tions in the pass­port-free Schen­gen area will be ex­empted.

Cyprus plans to open up June 9 to com­mer­cial flights from a short list of coun­tries with low COVID-19 rates, in­clud­ing Greece, Germany and Nor­way. The list will be ex­panded to sev­eral more coun­tries on June 20.

Some Euro­pean re­gions and tour op­er­a­tors have called for “tourism cor­ri­dors” be­tween ar­eas with low rates of the coro­n­avirus. Bri­tain has said it is con­sid­er­ing the idea, but Italy has con­demned it, fear­ing it will ex­clude the coun­try, which has seen more than 32,000 COVID-19 deaths.

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