The home secretary insists the measures are “backed by the science” and is “essential” to save lives.
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Travellers arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days from today under new rules being described by some airlines as “unlawful” and “ineffective”.
British Airways has begun legal proceedings after sending a pre-action letter, which is the first stage in a judicial review, to ministers on Friday.
Backed by Ryanair and EasyJet, a statement released by all three airlines said: “These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK.
“We urge the UK govt to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on UK’s tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis.”
The quarantine rules mean all passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – will have to fill out an online locator form giving their contact and travel details and the address of where they will isolate.
Regulations for England include fixed penalty notices of £1,000 or prosecution for anyone who breaches the rules, with police being allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure people comply.
Border Force officers will carry out checks at the border and may refuse entry to a non-resident foreign national who refuses to comply with the regulations.
But the airlines argue the measures are more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have COVID-19, if you live in Scotland to date the rules will not apply, and it will affect people from countries with lower R rates than the UK.
Controversial border plans are 'essential' to save lives, Patel says
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s owner IAG told Sky News on Friday: “We do believe it is an irrational piece of legislation.”
And the letter, seen by The Sunday Times, argues the restrictions are disproportionate.
It said: “In our view, the government has failed to identify a valid justification for the blanket nature of the regulations, especially given the extremely severe nature of the self-isolation provisions that apply.”
How the UK's 14-day travel quarantine will work
Meanwhile, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said the quarantine rules put a third of the airport’s 75,000 workforce at risk.
“I don’t want to see that happen. But we’ll have to make that decision, within the next couple of weeks.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the rule is “backed by the science” and is “essential” to save lives.
“We know they will present difficulties for the tourism industry, but that’s why we have an unprecedented package of support, the most comprehensive in the world, for both employees and businesses,” she said.
“But we will all suffer if we get this wrong. That’s why it’s crucial that we introduce these measures now.”
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Ms Patel confirmed the first review of the quarantine measures would take place in the week beginning 28 June, with the government considering “international travel corridors” to allow future quarantine-free travel from destinations deemed safe.
They could be in place for a year, when the legislation expires, unless the government decides to scrap it sooner.