Two major London business groups have criticised newly-announced government plans to quarantine almost all people arriving in the UK for 14 days as “indiscriminate”, resembling “the worst sort of arrogant British exceptionalism” and a threat to the country’s economic recovery.
London Chamber of Commerce & Industry chief executive Richard Burge said, “Businesses in many sectors that depend upon aviation will this evening be baffled why the government and its advisors have chosen this approach, at this time” and London First transport programme director Adam Tyndall said, “Two weeks in isolation will put off most travellers, all of whom would have contributed to the UK’s economic recovery.”
The sharp responses follow home secretary Priti Patel telling today’s Downing Street briefing that the measures will come into effect from 8 June in order to “reduce the risk of cases crossing our border”, with only lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers, coronavirus medical professionals and arrivals from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man being exempt. Patel denied that the UK will be “shutting down completely”, saying “we are not closing our borders”.
Border Force director general Paul Lincoln explained that if an arrival from overseas does not have suitable accommodation in which to serve out their quarantine “facilities arranged by the government” will be provided.
Burge said the government’s “roadmap to restarting the economy is correctly centred on a risk-based approach” but that “this almost blanket quarantine for international arrivals doesn’t appear to be risk-based” as it fails to recognise that incomers from countries with far lower transmission levels than the UK’s “would not increase our risk, provided they adopted our social distancing protocols on arrival.”
Challenging the government to provided analysis contrary his assessment, Burge said: “At the moment this looks like the worst sort of arrogant British exceptionalism. This sort of thing does not create or sustain a global reputation, nor the impression of re-opening for business.”
Tyndall characterised the move as “an indiscriminate response to an increasingly nuanced situation. Two weeks in isolation will put off most travellers, all of whom would have contributed to the UK’s economic recovery.” He added: “The UK is a world leader in aviation and should be forging international agreements between low-risk countries. Getting back to some limited and controlled form of air travel will be critical to supporting the UK economy.”
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