Tourists will be allowed to travel freely across the EU by the middle of July, as the government plans to water-down its travel quarantine policy ‘as quickly as possible’.
Boris Johnson wants to agree a cross-EU exemption, which would allow Britons to visit EU countries without having to isolate for 14 days.
This comes after transport chiefs attacked the Government’s economically ‘devastating’ travel quarantine, which was implemented on Monday.
But insiders say Mr Johnson wants the controversial policy, drawn up by his chief of staff Dominic Cummings, watered down as soon as possible, The Sun reported.
Passengers Guy Potter and Sarah Hartstein arrive at Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport today
Passengers queue to check in at Manchester Airport today as new quarantine rules come in
Passengers wearing PPE fill out forms at Eurostar’s departures area at London St Pancras today
The strict new quarantine rules people face when entering Britain from today
What happen when you arrive in the UK?
All passengers arriving in the UK will have to fill in a form before heading to Britain. This will include British nationals coming home, as well as foreign visitors. You must provide the address at which you will be staying in the UK – and self-isolate there. You will not be allowed to leave that address at all, or receive visitors, for 14 days.
How does it work?
Passengers will be able to complete ‘contact locator form’ on the Government’s website up to 48 hours before departure. There will be no paper versions of the form. Failing to complete the form before travelling is a crime, but there will be a short grace period and allow travellers to fill in the form electronically in the arrivals hall.
How will this be enforced?
There will be spot checks to ensure all passengers have completed a form. Border Force staff will interview people as they leave planes and at border checkpoints.
What happens if I refuse to fill in a contact locator form?
You will be given an on-the-spot £100 fine by Border Force officers.
What checks will take place during the 14-day period?
Public health officials will carry out random checks by telephone. If these raise doubts, police will visit the address, issuing a fine where necessary.
What happens if I leave the address I provide in the form?
In England, you will be issued with a £1,000 spot fine. You could even be prosecuted, and face an unlimited fine if convicted. The fine could increase beyond £1,000 if the ‘risk of infection from abroad increases’, the Home Office says. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own enforcement systems.
Will foreign visitors be treated differently?
Yes. They could be removed from the UK ‘as a last resort’ if they fail to comply, the Home Office says. Officials could also refuse entry to non-UK nationals who are resident here. But they cannot refuse entry to British nationals.
Can I use public transport to travel from the airport to my isolation address?
Yes, but the Home Office says it would be preferable if you used your car.
What if I don’t have a suitable address to go to for 14 days?
The Government will provide isolation accommodation – possibly at similar venues to those used by travellers coming back from China earlier this year. The traveller will have to pay for this.
A fast agreement with the EU’s 27 countries is a top priority as senior cabinet ministers on the Covid-19 Operations Committee are set to meet this week.
The meeting will finalise the criteria to begin negotiating air and sea bridges, or ‘international travel corridors’.
But the EU travel deal is unlikely to be put into place by the travel quarantine’s three-week review on June 29, with ministers instead setting mid-July as their target.
A senior government figure said: ‘Designing international travel corridors is very complex, not least because they are a cross-Whitehall problem.
‘The aim is to have the first ones in place by mid-July, and one with the EU will be the first.’
The UK Prime Minister and French president Emmanuel Macron previously tried to allow safe travel between their countries, but the EU Commission insisted it would break the Schengen free travel area rules.
The Foreign Office’s advice against all but essential travel is expected to be abandoned in the next few days, The Sun said.
The FCO confirmed the advice is being reviewed last night and a note appeared beside the travel ban on its website reaffirming this.
Meanwhile, transport chiefs lined up last night to attack the Government’s ‘poorly thought-out’ and economically ‘devastating’ travel quarantine which came into force on Monday.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye warned the scheme would hasten the loss of up to 25,000 jobs and hinder Britain’s ability ‘to fight for our place in the world’.
Channel Tunnel boss Jacques Gounon said the policy had been fraught with problems due to its late introduction last week and accused Ministers of ‘intransigence’.
Meanwhile, furious airline chiefs wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding that plans for ‘air bridges’ with other countries be drawn up within days.
Last night she defended the quarantine, saying: ‘We all want to return to normal as quickly as possible. But this cannot be at the expense of lives.
‘The science is clear that if we limit the risk of new cases being brought in from abroad, we can help stop a devastating second wave. That is why the measures coming into force today are necessary.’
Under the scheme, all travellers arriving in Britain – including returning UK holidaymakers – will have to self-isolate for a fortnight. It applies to air, rail and sea passengers who face on-the-spot fines if caught breaking the rules.
But critics say it is ‘unworkable’ due to a number of loopholes.
Fresh concerns were raised yesterday about how the scheme will be enforced, with one group of 500 campaigning travel firms claiming it has ‘more holes than a sieve’.
Unions also added to the criticism, branding the scheme a ‘populist move’ with no scientific basis. Labour added that the measures appeared to show the Government ‘just hasn’t got a plan’.
The controversy comes after British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair hit ministers with an unprecedented joint legal action arguing the scheme is illegal on the grounds that it is discriminatory, irrational and disproportionate.
They complain it was drawn up without consultation even though it could destroy attempts to rebuild their businesses.
The airlines want ‘air bridge’ deals, where countries agree on quarantine-free travel with each other, to salvage what is left of the summer holiday season and prevent deeper economic harm.
Only Italy is taking British tourists with Portugal expected to follow suit imminently – but foreign holidays elsewhere are currently unlikely, especially short term
Measures could include health screening for arrivals from destinations with low infection rates, with only those showing symptoms going into quarantine.
Mr Holland-Kaye led the criticism last night, saying the industry needs ‘more targeted’ measures and warned that he had heard of one UK airport facing bankruptcy in ‘days’.
He added: ‘What we’ve heard already from the airlines is that they are cutting around a third of all employees, so that would be 25,000 people out of work. That would be a devastating blow.’
The Heathrow chief executive said the aviation industry was in ‘survival mode and having to make unpalatable decisions’.
He also told The City View podcast: ‘I don’t think we should make their jobs harder for them by putting further hurdles [like this quarantine] in their way. We will need to fight as a country for our place in the world.’
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says Britons won’t follow ‘rubbish’ quarantine regime as businesses join airlines in legal fight against new laws that have ‘more holes than a sieve’
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary today said air passengers arriving in Britain will simply ignore the new ‘rubbish’ quarantine rules as airlines launched a joint legal action.
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair have told the Government the scheme launched this morning is illegal because it is discriminatory, irrational and disproportionate.
Businesses have raised fresh concerns over how the plans will be enforced, with one group of 500 campaigning travel firms claiming it has ‘more holes than a sieve’.
Heathrow Airport chief John Holland-Kaye warned the scheme will hasten the loss of up to 25,000 jobs and hinder Britain’s ability ‘to fight for our place in the world’.
And Channel Tunnel boss Jacques Gounon said it had been fraught with problems due to its late introduction last week and accused Ministers of ‘intransigence’.
Mr O’Leary said today his airline will be flying a full schedule in July and August, claiming: ‘The flights are full outbound of the UK. British people are ignoring this quarantine, they know it’s rubbish.’
He added: ‘You could be in Sainsbury’s, you could be on the beach, you could be on the golf course in the unlikely event the Home Office calls you – all they will have is a mobile number.
Countries already interested in striking quarantine-free ‘travel corridors’ with Britain to get tourism going again include Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece.
Travel firms complain that they were issued with details of the strict new rules late on Friday, leaving them only 48 hours to ensure they are in place.
Mr Gounon, chief executive of Getlink which owns the Channel Tunnel, sent a scathing letter to Boris Johnson.
He wrote: ‘Limited consultation by the Home Office and departmental intransigence have led to a situation that puts a serious risk on the efficiency of operations at the Channel Tunnel, a vital link in the Great British supply chain.’
In a joint statement, British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet warned that they were prepared to take their legal action further.
They added: ‘These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK.
‘We urge the UK Government to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on the UK’s tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis.’ The 23-page document of measures sent to travel bosses on Friday states that the airlines are ‘not asked to require passengers to complete the passenger form or refuse boarding if not completed’.
With only ‘spot checks’ to be carried out by an already depleted Border Force, there are fears many arrivals could simply slip through unchallenged, particularly those using e-gates.
Travellers arriving in Britain will be allowed to stay overnight at a hotel or other accommodation before going to the address where they have said they will self-isolate.
Critics also say passengers can jump straight on to public transport after arriving, meaning the virus could be spread anyway. They say the list of exemptions for being able to break the 14-day self-isolation is open to interpretation.
There are also fears it will be easy to dodge being caught as health officials will only chase up a small proportion of arrivals on the phone. Paul Charles, co-leader of Quash Quarantine, a group of 500 travel firms, said: ‘There are more holes than in a sieve in this unworkable, poorly-thought and economically damaging Government policy.’
Jim McMahon, Labour’s transport spokesman, added: ‘Our real concern is that the Government just hasn’t got a plan. They seem to go from one extreme to another. There were no restrictions up until only a couple of days ago.’ Ministers will review the policy every three weeks, meaning the first opportunity for ‘air bridges’ is on June 29.
A government spokesman said: ‘We are exploring whether we can introduce agreements with other countries when safe to do so, allowing UK residents to go abroad and tourists to come here without facing quarantine on arrival.
‘We recognise the challenges facing the aviation sector… and have put in place a comprehensive package of financial support.’