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Coronavirus: Stansted Airport owner responds to Government's quarantine plan for UK arrivals

The Government has announced quarantine plans for the majority of people arriving in the UK – drawing criticism from the boss of Stansted Airport's owner.

Charlie Cornish, group chief executive of MAG (Manchester Airports Group), said that a blanket quarantine policy will "seriously jeopardise the long-term future" of the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors, putting "tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds of economic value, at risk".

Grounded aircraft at Stansted Airport (35114855)
Grounded aircraft at Stansted Airport (35114855)

He called on the Government to open up 'air bridges' – agreements with countries that have low infection rates, enabling tourists to travel without quarantining.

From June 8, people arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Travellers will need to say where they will quarantine, with enforcement through spot checks and £1,000 fines in England.

Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office (35115084)
Home Secretary Priti Patel. Picture: Home Office (35115084)

Home Secretary Priti Patel told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Friday (May 22) the new measures – which will be reviewed every three weeks – would "reduce the risk of cases crossing our border".

The aim was to "keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave", she said, adding: "I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others."

Lorry drivers and freight workers, medical professionals travelling to fight Covid-19 and seasonal farm workers, who will self-isolate where they are working, will be exempt.

The requirement will not apply to those travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 'Air bridges' will not be in place initially.

Stansted Airport terminal (35114784)
Stansted Airport terminal (35114784)

Mr Cornish said: "For as long as it lasts, a blanket quarantine policy will be a brick wall to the recovery of the UK aviation and tourism industries, with huge consequences for UK jobs and GDP [Gross domestic product].

“By enabling people to travel between the UK and low-risk countries, the aviation industry is able to help lead the UK economy out of this crisis, just as it has in previous recessions. But in order for this to happen, the Government must work quickly to create a smart and targeted approach that recognises that many countries are already low risk.

“European countries are starting to open up, and some that are popular with British holidaymakers want to agree two-way arrangements with the UK to enable travel.

Stansted Airport terminal (35114781)
Stansted Airport terminal (35114781)

“Government has to take a risk-based approach to quarantine arrangements to enable air travel to restart and to allow British people to enjoy well-earned holidays in safe countries. At the same time, this would help kick-start UK tourism and hospitality industries, saving businesses and jobs."

The new quarantine policy will be in place across the UK, although how it is enforced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be determined by the devolved administrations.

If a person does not have suitable accommodation to go to, they will be required to stay in "facilities arranged by the government" at the person's own expense, according to Border Force chief Paul Lincoln.

Airlines have said a quarantine requirement would "effectively kill air travel" – and one airport boss described the plans as a "blunt tool".

The government currently recommends international travel only when absolutely necessary, and nobody should travel if they display any coronavirus symptoms.

What the new system involves

Passengers arriving in the UK must fill out an online locator contact form, giving details of where they will spend their 14 days in self-isolation. The proposed accommodation will need to meet necessary requirements, such as a hotel or a private address with friends or family.

There will be a £100 fine for failure to complete the form, and the Border Force will have the power to refuse entry to non-UK citizens who do not comply with the new regulations.

New arrivals may be contacted at any time during their quarantine and, in England, may be visited by public health authorities conducting spot checks.

They will be told to avoid public transport and travel to their accommodation by car "where possible", and not to go out to buy food or other essentials "where they can rely on others".

In England, a breach of self-isolation will be punishable by a £1,000 fixed penalty notice, or prosecution and an unlimited fine for persistent offenders.

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has reached 36,393 – a rise of 351 on Thursday's figure.

Stansted Airport factfile

  • London Stansted is the third largest airport in London (4th in UK), serving 28 million passengers a year.
  • A market leader for short-haul travel across Europe, with 200 destinations in 40 countries, Stansted serves more scheduled connections to Europe than any other airport in the world apart from Munich. Passengers can also access Emirates' global network of more than 150 destinations via daily direct flights to the airline’s Dubai hub.
  • Stansted has the capability to serve 43m passengers a year and is forecast to deliver up to 50% of London’s expected passenger growth over the next decade.
  • The airport is currently carrying out a multi-million-pound investment programme to significantly transform the passenger experience by enhancing facilities and services.
  • More than 50% of passengers travel to and from Stansted by train, coach and bus, making it the best-performing airport in the UK and one of the best in Europe for public transport use.

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