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On Monday, 8 June, the UK introduced the quarantine rules that were originally announced back in May, so most visitors entering the country are now expected to self-isolate for 14 days before they can join the rest of the population and go about their business. The new rules are nothing short of idiotic and now three of the UK’s major airlines have filed legal papers requesting the rules are put to a judicial review.
British Airways, easyJet, and Ryanair have formed an unlikely alliance to challenge the UK government’s quarantine rules amid concerns that they will have a “devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy and destroy thousands of jobs”.
Last Thursday, British Airways refused to join an industry conference call to discuss the new quarantine rules with the UK’s Home Secretary (Secretary of State) claiming the discussions were “pointless”, but representatives from easyJet and Ryanair joined in and participated on the call. Clearly nothing that was said on that call made very much difference to how the airlines feel about the quarantine rules (as today’s legal motion demonstrates) and now their fate will come down to a High Court review.
Here, in essence, is what the airlines are claiming:
- There was no consultation with the airline industry before the quarantine rules were introduced.
- No scientific evidence has been put forward to support the need for the quarantine rules in their current form.
- The government is unreasonable in preventing people from traveling to and from countries with significantly lower infection rates than the UK.
On all three points the airlines appear to have a good case.
Various scientists who sit on the panel that is advising the government on the current crisis have already stated that they were not consulted on the quarantine measures before they were introduced (link), and they have also confirmed that quarantine measures are best used in situations that do not match with the circumstances the UK currently finds itself in (link).
The statements released by the airlines shortly after the UK’s Prime Minister announced that quarantine restrictions would be put in place demonstrated very clearly that the news was a surprise to most people in the travel industry, and the government hasn’t been able to come up with an answer to the question of why it’s important to quarantine people arriving from countries where the infection rates are significantly lower than those in the UK.
Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far it’s hard to see how the UK government can win this legal challenge to its quarantine rules (if the scientists say they weren’t consulted and that the measures are inappropriate, the government doesn’t have much of an argument) but it may be able to save face by dragging the legal process out. Most people seem to agree that the quarantine rules will not be renewed past the beginning of July so, if the government’s lawyers can stall the judicial process for a few weeks (which I suspect they’ll try very hard to do), the government will be able to claim that the quarantine has served its purpose and that its own review decided that the rules are no longer required.
We will all know that this is nonsense and that the government’s decision to introduce the quarantine rules was taken by people with the combined intellectual capacity of a tree frog…but at least the politicians will be able to walk away in the delusional belief that their dignity and authority remain intact.