British Airways passengers travelling through Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
The British travel industry is to take legal action against the government’s quarantine policy, which came into force on June 8.
The policy means that travellers into the UK, including returning Britons, will now have to self-isolate for a period of fourteen days. This includes those travelling into the country by boat, train or plane.
Five hundred of the UK’s biggest travel and hospitality firms have joined airlines, including flag carrier British Airways, in a legal case aimed at reversing the quarantine policy.
‘Quash Quarantine’ has been joined by the likes of hotelier Sir Rocco Forte and hotels including The Dorchester, The Goring, Claridges and Ritz Hotels to stop the 14-day mandatory quarantine from going ahead.
It’s claimed that it will have a ‘catastrophic’ impact, particularly as Europe moves into its summer season, with up to 400,000 job losses across the travel and hospitality industry.
British Airways, Ryanair and Easyjet have sent a letter to the government claiming the quarantine policy is “unjustified”, “disproportionate” and “unfair”. British Airways also claims it was not properly consulted.
The group argues that the 14-day self-isolation requirement is disproportionate compared to the seven day ‘stay-at-home’ rule for those diagnosed with coronavirus.
Also, they argue, quarantine measures are only effective when travel is restricted from countries with higher rates of infection to Britain – the rate of infection in the UK is currently higher than in Europe. This view is backed by the government’s own scientific advisers.
The policy is also considered unfair and discriminatory because international ‘commuters’ who travel weekly to the UK are exempt. Enforcement between the regions also differs, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland allowed to decide their own penalties for breaching the quarantine.
The chief executive of Loganair, Jonathan Hinkles, told BBC Radio, “At the right time, we would have supported quarantine. The government put the country into lockdown on March 23. Surely the right time to be looking at quarantine regulations was around that time?”
All four UK nations have now tabled the legislation, which has also been backed by Labour, the UK’s opposition party.
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, is said to be looking into putting ‘air bridges’ in place, which would allow British holidaymakers to travel to certain countries and not have to self-isolate on their return to the UK.
The UK has one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world. On June 7, deaths fell to fewer than 100 for the first time since lockdown began, with no deaths recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland.