NIGERIAN passengers who arrive in the UK as from today will have to go into two weeks of isolation under new laws that have come into effect as part of government plans to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Over recent weeks, the UK government has been gradually relaxing the control measures it put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus, opening airports, allowing people to return to work and lifting some restrictions on restaurants. Companies like McDonalds for instance have now re-opened, although they are only allowed to sell takeaways, making use of their drive-through facilities.
International flights have resumed at the UK’s airports too, lifting the gloom in the aviation industry but with strict conditions. Airlines are having to maintain social distancing, ensure that facemasks are used and when passengers arrive from abroad, they must go into self isolation for two weeks.
This quarantine measure, which applies to both residents and visitors with some exceptions, is aimed at preventing a second wave of contagion from abroad. However, critics question why the UK, which was hardest hit by coronavirus in Europe and is only gradually easing a lockdown, is inflicting more pain on hotels and airlines by reducing travel from countries with fewer virus cases.
British Airways and budget carriers EasyJet and Ryanair have launched joint legal proceedings against the government over what they called a disproportionate and unfair step. Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, said the plan was useless and unenforceable, adding that it would devastate thousands of jobs in British tourism.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of London’s Heathrow Airport, said that it could lead to the loss of potentially 25,000 jobs at the airport, representing a third of staff. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new rules made sense because the proportion of infections that come from abroad increases as Britain’s own caseload drops.
Also, to enter Britain by plane, train, road or sea, travellers must provide details of their journey and the address where they will self-isolate. How the quarantine will be implemented differs between Britain’s devolved nations and the measures will be assessed every three weeks.
Exemptions are being made in several cases including for lorry drivers, essential healthcare workers and people travelling from Ireland who have been there for at least two weeks. Authorities in England will carry out spot checks and those breaching the rules could be punished with a £1,000 fine or prosecution.
Home secretary Priti Patel told sceptical lawmakers in parliament last week that the measure was backed by science, supported by the public and essential to save lives. Britain’s government is pushing ahead with a gradual lockdown easing that will see retail outlets reopen on June 15 and restaurants and bars begin limited service in early July.
However, the devastated hospitality sector relies heavily on tourists and business leaders fear the quarantine will mean much of the summer season will be lost. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government is trying to arrange travel corridors with countries such as France and Spain that could see them lift their quarantine demands but officials are reportedly giving themselves until late June to strike these deals but the airlines behind the lawsuit say they cannot wait that long.
“These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK. The quarantine will have a devastating effect on the UK’s tourism industry and will destroy thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis”, they airlines said in a joint statement.