Ordering people arriving in the UK to quarantine for 14 days is “essential” to save lives, Home Secretary Priti Patel has said as she set out details of the government’s controversial border plan.
From Monday, all those travelling to the UK – apart from a short list of exemptions including road hauliers – will have to self-isolate for two weeks.
They will also be required to complete an online locator form to supply contact details, travel details and the address of where they will self-isolate.
UK border officials will perform “spot checks” to ensure travellers have completed the forms, and those who fail to do so could be fined £100.
Those who breach the 14-day self-isolation requirements could also be punished with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or potential prosecution and an unlimited fine.
The government has pushed ahead with the imposition of quarantine measures at the UK border despite criticism of the plans from senior Conservative MPs, who fear the impact on the already struggling aviation and tourism sectors.
Critics have also questioned why quarantine measures are being introduced now and not at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Defending the policy in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Ms Patel said the UK was “now more vulnerable” to new coronavirus infections being brought in from abroad as international travel picks up from its record low.
The home secretary added: “These measures are backed by the science, supported by the public, and 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.
“But we will all suffer if we get this wrong. That’s why it’s crucial that we introduce these measures now.”
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.
She said: “Across government and with the sector we continue to explore all options for future safe travel.
“Any international approaches will be bilateral and agreed with the other countries concerned.
“We need to ensure that those countries are deemed to be safe.
“We are not alone in our fight against this disease, or in the measures we have taken to stop it.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for the cabinet minister’s assurance that scientific advice showed a “genuine public health benefit now that, according to the government, it did not have in past months”.
Ms Patel said the quarantine measures were being introduced at the “right time” as domestic transmission of COVID-19 reduces.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Theresa Villiers urged the home secretary to suspend the implementation of “blanket” quarantine measures for a few more weeks.
This would be in order to “get those safe air corridors in place so we can save jobs in aviation and let families go on their summer breaks in the sun”, she added.
Her fellow Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Liam Fox said: “I simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy.
“If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak and if it is a contingency measure against a so-called second wave, why apply it to countries with a lower infection rate than we already have?
“Surely the answer lies in the government’s test and trace system rather than unnecessary economic isolation.”