Plans to force almost all arrivals to the UK to isolate for 14 days have been confirmed by the home secretary. Priti Patel told the Commons that Border Force will check that travellers fill out a form with their contact details and location for isolation.
Leaving isolation prematurely in England could result in a fine of up to £1,000 or prosecution, she said. “We will not allow a reckless minority to put our domestic recovery at risk,” she said.
Ms Patel told MPs that scientific advisers had said quarantine would not have been effective earlier in the coronavirus pandemic when infection rates in the UK were higher.
But now, imported cases of the virus posed a more significant threat, she said, so it was now important to “protect our hard-won progress as we move in the right direction”.
It comes as the latest Department of Health figures show another 359 people have died after contracting coronavirus, bringing the UK total to 39,728. An additional 1,871 people tested positive in the last 24-hour period.
Asked at the Downing Street briefing whether he would recommend people in the UK book foreign holidays, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public to follow Foreign Office guidance against non-essential travel. “We’ve got to knock this virus on the head,” he said.
And while he urged EU workers who had left the UK because their jobs had disappeared during lockdown to return, he ruled out any alternatives to quarantine for them, such as a medical certificate.
“Come back to London, or the UK – but you’ve got to quarantine. Everybody has been in lockdown for a long time, I know it’s an imposition, but we really have got to beat this virus,” he said.
Ms Patel said in the Commons that the “proportionate and time-limited measures” would come into force on Monday, with “limited exemptions” intended to ensure supplies of essential items such as food and protective equipment were not disrupted.
The regulations apply to England, and Ms Patel said devolved administrations would set out their own rules for enforcing the quarantine.
Ms Patel said the measures would be reviewed after three weeks and the government would aim to ensure greater freedom in the long term, including establishing “international travel corridors” with countries deemed to be safe.