Anyone flying into the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days under new Government plans
Everyone entering the UK will be forced to quarantine for a fortnight under plans being drawn up by the Government. The move follows growing pressure for tighter border controls during the coronavirus crisis and would include UK citizens returning from abroad.
Airport bosses have complained that the failure to limit arrivals and check passengers has made a mockery of the lockdown. The Mail on Sunday understands that the plan – similar to one operated by Singapore – was agreed during a meeting of Ministers and officials on Wednesday.
Officials were told to look at ways to enforce compliance, including large fines or even criminal prosecution, under powers introduced by the Coronavirus Act. It was agreed the authorities could visit registered addresses of arrivals to ensure they were not breaking their quarantine.
An unusually empty Heathrow airport. Under new rules everyone coming back into the UK may have to be isolated for as long as fourteen days
The emergency legislation gives immigration officials the power to remove a potentially infectious person to a suitable place for screening and assessment, and for public health officers to enforce restrictions on movement.
The new measures would be backed by a global communications campaign to warn travellers what to expect if they come to the UK. A Government source said: ‘A stringent, Singapore-style approach at our ports will help the UK manage the risk from travellers entering the country and reduce the possibility of a second peak.
‘We are looking at deploying these measures at the right time, in line with the scientific advice and when community transmission has been significantly reduced.’
A 14-day quarantine of arrivals has already been implemented in dozens of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Greece. Japan and Hong Kong introduced Covid-19 tests for all arrivals in mid-January – with those testing positive immediately taken to hospital, and those who test negative placed in isolation.
More than 130 countries have introduced some form of travel restriction, quarantine and bans on travel from high-risk areas. At least 90 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on non-citizens and non-residents arriving from abroad, with Britain criticised for allowing anyone to arrive free of checks.
More than 15,000 people arrive in the UK each day, with hundreds of thousands of UK nationals being repatriated since the outbreak began, including 200,000 from Spain, one of the worst-hit countries.
Since January, officials in China and other countries in the Far East and Middle East have been using infra-red cameras to screen travellers with high temperatures. Those who appear red on the screen are singled out for a consultation by health professionals and in some cases tested for the disease.
Heathrow would usually be packed with travelers this time of year but is now empty
However, the World Health Organisation says entry screening is ‘not effective’ because it can take two weeks for a virus carrier to display symptoms. Only a few cases have been detected at airports in China, Thailand and Malaysia. Lorry drivers bringing in vital supplies to the UK could be exempt from the clampdown.