UK Announces Its Pointless Quarantine Rules [Updated]


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Update: Quarantine rules to come in to effect from 8 June 2020.

On 10 May, the UK Prime Minister used an address to the nation to announce that his government would be introducing a 14-day quarantine period for visitors entering the UK as well as for nationals returning from abroad. At the time of the announcement the government’s messaging was inexplicably mixed, the facts were very thin on the ground, the Prime Minister looked worryingly unsure of what he was announcing, and the country couldn’t even be told when the quarantine restrictions would come into effect. The whole situation was farcical.

Now, almost two weeks after that original announcement, the government has finally worked out what it wants to do and the measures to be implemented were announced at 5 pm UK time (12 pm ET).

Quarantine Facts:

  • The quarantine rules will come into force on 8 June 2020.
  • All modes of transport will be covered by these measures (contrary to what the UK Prime Minister announced, these measures will not be limited to arrivals by air).
  • Visitors and UK nationals arriving from abroad will have to self-isolate for 14 days from when they enter the country.
  • Arrivals from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well as road hauliers and medical officials will be exempt.
  • Arrivals from France will not be exempt (contrary to what was originally announced by the UK and French governments).
  • All passengers arriving by air, sea, or train will need to provide UK Border Force officials with an address where they will self-isolate. If no address can be provided the UK government will arrange accommodation.
  • A £100 (~$121) fine will be levied on anyone failing to complete the required form at the UK border.
  • A £1,000 (~$1,210) fine will be levied on anyone caught breaking the rules.
  • These measures will be reviewed every 3 weeks from the date they’re introduced.

In related news, a number of UK police forces (including London’s Metropolitan Police) have stated that they will not be able to enforce the quarantine restrictions because they don’t have the necessary resources and they have enough to deal with as it is. The UK government is going to have to hire “special inspectors” if it wants to make sure that its quarantine rules are not being broken.

Thoughts

All in all, this move is nothing more than a joke. And a very bad joke at that.

The UK has continued to allow visitors to pass through its borders since the world started to shut down with no checks being made on where visitors have come from, where they’re staying or if they’re showing any symptoms related to Covid-19. Visitors have been allowed to come and go as they please while the UK population has been told to shelter at home.

It’s more than a little ironic that the European country run by politicians who campaigned so successfully to limit the freedom of movement through its borders, has been the European country with the most porous borders throughout the current crisis.

If there was ever a time to limit the movement of people entering the UK it was three months ago when the virus was still spreading like wildfire and when numerous counties around the world were a long way from getting their outbreaks under control. As the UK didn’t impose restrictions then, it’s more than a little odd that its government feels the need to bring in restrictions now.

What’s even odder is that the government clearly doesn’t think there’s an urgent need for its quarantine rules because it’s not exactly introducing them with any great haste.

Here’s the truly ridiculous thing:

While all around Europe countries closed borders and implemented strict lockdowns to stem the spread of Covid-19, the UK didn’t do very much at all. Its borders remained as porous as a colander and it was the last major European economy to order shops, stores, bars, etc… to close and to ask its population to stay at home and shelter in place.

Now that most European countries are demonstrating that they have their outbreaks under control (at least for now), and now that we’re seeing a number of European countries lifting lockdown restrictions and announcing measures to open up their borders to visitors from countries where the virus is being successfully beaten back, we have the UK saying that it’s going to implement strict quarantine rules for most arrivals into the country.

Regardless of the rhetoric coming from the UK government, there doesn’t appear to be any scientific reason for the new quarantine rules (most scientists quoted from around the world seem to agree that quarantine is meaningless at this point) and, apart from offering up some platitudes about “keeping people safe now that the UK has the virus under control”, the UK government appears incapable of providing evidence for why controls on arrivals were not needed in March, April or May but will be needed from June onwards.

The more and more you look at what the UK government is doing, the more and more it looks like it’s implementing measures now to take the focus off its inexplicable reluctance to implement measures back in late February or early March…which was when the rest of the world was sitting up and taking notice.

Bottom Line

The UK has announced its new quarantine restrictions and they come into effect on 8 June 2020. These measures are unlikely to have any material effect on the path that Covid-19 takes in the country but, because their main purpose isn’t to tackle the pandemic but to give the illusion that the UK government is taking firm action, this won’t really matter to those in charge.

11 COMMENTS

  1. And it will be announced with great fanfare as “protecting our UK Citizens”. From what exactly, Home Secretary? Protecting us from passengers arriving from countries with less infections, less deaths, lower R-value? Yeah, sure. If it makes sense to do it now, why the hell didn’t it makes sense 3 months ago?

  2. FYI – potential typo: two different dates for when the new rules go into effect.

    “The quarantine rules will come into force on 8 June 2020.”

    “The UK will announce its new quarantine restrictions later today and they’re expected to come into effect on 1 June 2020.”

    • Good spot! I updated the post and in my haste to publish the updated version, I forgot to update the “bottom line!

  3. Got to disagree with you.
    Anybody coming into the country prior to the small relaxation of the lockdown had to follow instructions to stay at home except for specific reasons. Just like anybody already in the country.
    Now that the new cases appearing are lower and the R rate is below 1 and as further relaxation will be announced next weekend, the country is able to enforce a stricter version of quarantine to keep the R rate below 1.
    It sounds very good to have quarantine back at the end of March but unless you have a way to enforce it, quarantine will have little effect over Stay at Home.
    The Government advice to UK citizens and residents is not to travel Overseas at all, and this advise has been in place for some time.
    The effect of the new quarantine rules, therefore, will dissuade non residents to stay away from the UK for the time being.

    • The problem with this argument is that in February, March & April, the government was happy to allow people to enter the UK from other countries regardless of what the R number in those countries was and it wasn’t enforcing any kind of quarantine. People were being “advised” to stay at home but nothing was being done to track them or to ensure that they weren’t “doing a Cummings” so there was every chance that highly infectious people were coming and going as they pleased – why wasn’t it possible to implement a quarantine then if it’s possible to implement one now? Why wasn’t the government trying to dissuade non-residents from entering in late February, March, April & May?

      The illogicality of this is clear: While most European countries had an R number of well over 1 the UK did little to stop the freedom of movement and did nothing to track and trace people arriving into the country. Now that a substantial number of European countries have their respective R numbers under 1 (and have more stable R numbers than the UK), the government has decided that it needs to protect its population from abroad and, effectively, close the country’s borders. How does that make any sense at all?

      As an added bit of evidence that the UK government has absolutely no idea what it’s doing (or is choosing to lie), it has said that one of the reasons it did not introduce a quarantine months ago is that “it would have made repatriating UK citizens a lot harder” (a statement made by Boris Johnson). On the basis that multiple countries around the world (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, etc..) were very successful in closing borders and repatriating their citizens, this is utter nonsense.

  4. This is all ridiculous, as well as handling this very situation. I’m just wondering when they want to announce their official date for letting people leave the UK finally?

    • I have no special insight into this but I would guess that this quarantine will not be around that long – too many travel-related businesses would go under.

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