Starting today, people coming into the UK from overseas by plane, train or ferry are being told they must self-isolate for 14 days – or risk a fine of up to £1,000 or prosecution.
The Government’s new quarantine policy, which was set out by the Home Secretary last week, has raised a number of concerns from across the City and beyond.
Of course, public safety must continue to be the priority when it comes to dealing with this pandemic and minimising the risk of a second wave of the virus.
Read more: Heathrow chief warns of quarantine impact
This is not to say, however, that the effect of these measures on our economy and international competitiveness should be ignored. The current quarantine proposals will have a major impact on a range of sectors, including the City’s financial and professional services firms as well as our cultural institutions.
Many people who would have come to the UK for business or pleasure as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased will now simply choose not to do so rather than be forced to lock themself away for two weeks. This is particularly challenging for many City firms that operate across multiple jurisdictions and have teams located in different countries that need to travel in and out of the UK frequently.
The near blanket quarantine approach sends a confusing signal to international businesses and investors as we try to lay the foundations for our recovery from COVID-19. It is frankly baffling why seasonal agricultural workers and truck drivers are being exempted from the rules but service sector staff are not. Restrictions which seem arbitrary rather than consistent undermine confidence and will hold us back.
We believe a much more targeted and proportionate system is needed so the Government’s commitment to keep the policy under regular review is welcome. The City of London Corporation will continue to call for the current approach to be reconsidered and replaced with one that is internationally co-ordinated, protects people and does not hamper the UK recovery.
As part of the review process, a number of other measures should be considered to get passengers flying safely as soon as possible. This could include the screening of people arriving in the UK, or the introduction of international travel corridors, so-called “air bridges” with low transmission countries. I hope that the government will continue bilateral discussions with international partners about the possible implementation of such innovative solutions.
Almost any other year, many of us would be turning our thoughts to our summer holiday plans. The consequences of the quarantine policy on overseas breaks is important but so too is the impact – direct and indirect – that it will have on many industries and the jobs that they underpin.
In recent weeks, the Government has rightly been shifting its focus towards how it can work with the private sector to mitigate the economic damage caused by the virus and drive the recovery forwards. It would be deeply disappointing, therefore, if this quarantine policy undermines the international connectivity that is central to achieving this.