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Coronavirus: UK enforcing quarantine for incoming travellers on Monday amid travel industry worries

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A passenger wearing a face mask as a precaution against the novel coronavirus arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on May 22, 2020
A passenger wearing a face mask as a precaution against the novel coronavirus arrive at Heathrow airport, west London, on May 22, 2020   -   Copyright  TOLGA AKMEN / AFP
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Watch the UK government daily briefing in the player above

The UK is enforcing a 14-day quarantine period for incoming travellers from Monday (June 8), despite strong opposition from several sectors of industry.

Three airlines -- British Airways, Ryanair and Easyjet -- have complained to the British government in protest at the measures they say are "disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK".

A statement sent to Euronews by Ryanair and representing the three companies claims the quarantine will be "ineffective" and have "a devastating effect on UK’s tourism industry", destroying thousands more jobs in addition to those already lost amid the pandemic.

Under the new UK rules, residents and visitors travelling to the UK on or after June 8 must provide journey and contact details, and self-isolate for the first 14 days. This means they cannot leave the place they are staying except in very limited circumstances.

Exceptions are made for some professions and trades as well as people entering from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Those who fall foul of the rules in England and Northern Ireland face fines of up to €1,120.

'No valid justification'

A letter British Airways, Ryanair and Easyjet sent to the UK government on Friday alleges there is no "valid justification for the blanket nature of the regulations", which it describes as "extremely severe".

The plans have drawn vociferous opposition from the UK travel industry. More than 200 companies wrote to the government last week calling for them to be scrapped.

Critics have questioned how imposing quarantine on people from elsewhere in Europe makes sense when the countries they are coming from have lower coronavirus infection rates than the UK.

The airlines' statement says the quarantine imposed on UK arrivals is "more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have COVID-19". It also alleges other anomalies as the rules don't apply to people living in Scotland, or to French or German workers commuting weekly the UK.

The Channel Tunnel owner Getlink has also written to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the quarantine plan is "fraught with problems" and its implementation will adversely impact its emergency crew.

UK 'more vulnerable to infections from abroad'

The UK government has defended its quarantine plan, which is due for review in three weeks' time.

Last week the Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel told Parliament the scientific advice it had received was that imposing quarantine earlier in the pandemic would not have been effective when infection rates in the UK were higher.

"We are now more vulnerable to infections being brought in from abroad," she told MPs, saying that international travel was likely to resume now that virus transmission was in decline.

"The scientific advice is that imported cases of the virus pose a more significant threat to our national effort and recovery. Travellers from overseas could become a higher proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK, and therefore increase the spread of the disease."

More arguments over lockdown easing

Newspaper reports on Sunday said Boris Johnson was preparing to push for a further major opening up of the economy, to avoid massive job losses especially in the summer tourism industry.

But other reports quote health chiefs as warning against more relaxation of restrictions until the UK's test and trace system is working properly.

There has been concern that although COVID-19 infection rates have declined, they are still too high, particularly in parts of southwest and northwest England.

Sunday brought renewed criticism of the UK's lockdown strategy. Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist and member of the government's scientific advisory group SAGE, told the BBC that failure to impose restrictions earlier had "cost a lot of lives".

Health minister Matt Hancock disagreed, saying there was a broad range of scientific opinion and the government had taken "the right decisions at the right time".

Last weekend several leading scientists claimed the government was now easing lockdown restrictions too soon in England, as infection rates were still too high.

Figures on Sunday showed the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK had risen by 77, the lowest daily figure since the lockdown began. There were no additional deaths in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The UK has the highest official COVID-19 death toll in Europe, at over 40,000.