Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled the strict measures, effectively putting an end to foreign travel for the peak holiday season. But the move could provide a huge boost to the UK tourism trade. Travellers returning from abroad will face fines of at least £1,000 if they fail to stay under quarantine for two weeks, it was announced. Ms Patel said the measure will come into force from June 8 in an attempt to stop travellers from overseas causing coronavirus that could trigger a devastating second wave of the killer disease.
The dramatic move, confirmed at the daily Downing Street briefing yesterday, is likely to make foreign holidays virtually impossible for most Britons this summer.
Aviation bosses warned the mandatory 14-day self-isolation for most people entering the country could “kill off” their industry.
But the Home Secretary said the measure was necessary to keep a grip on the virus.
She said: “It is to protect that hard-won progress and prevent a devastating resurgence in a second wave of the virus.”
People returning from overseas could face random spot-checks by health officials to ensure they are staying at home during the quarantine period.
Lawbreakers caught “endangering the safety of others” by flouting the rule could be hit with a £1,000 on-the-spot penalty or an even bigger fine imposed by the courts.
Travellers will be expected to complete online forms setting out their contact details before they travel. Failure to complete the form could also incur a £100 fixed penalty notice.
Foreigners could be banned from entering the UK if they fail to provide the necessary details about where they intend to stay.
Some travellers will be exempt from the quarantine to ensure the supply of essential goods and medical treatment.
They will include road haulage and freight workers involved in food supply and medical professionals who are travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus.
The quarantine rule will also not apply within the Common Travel Area that covers Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Ms Patel said the Home Office was bringing in the measure at the stage in the outbreak when it will be most effective.
Ministers will review the rule every three weeks.
She insisted the measure should not affect decisions about holiday bookings because the Government had already issued strict guidance against non-essential travel abroad. She added: “The advice is not about booking holidays right now.
“We are bringing in these measures for very clear reasons, as I have outlined.
“The other point to note is that advice from Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is you’re not to travel and to please follow the advice they are putting on their website, which is nothing but essential travel.
“This is absolutely not about booking holidays. We want to avoid a second wave and that is absolutely vital.” Passenger arrivals into the UK are already 99 percent down compared with last year because of the coronavirus crisis, she pointed out.
Ms Patel said: “We recognise how hard these changes will be for our travel sector, and leisure sectors, who are struggling through these unprecedented times.
“So, across Government, we will continue to work with them and support what is an incredibly dynamic sector to find new ways to reopen international travel and tourism in a safe and responsible way.”
Ms Patel insisted the country was not closing its borders or giving up on the Government’s vision of a “global Britain” open to business from around the world.
She added: “These measures will be kept under review and I really do want to emphasise that.
“We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders. People need to recognise that. “What we are seeking to do is control the spread of the virus because we do not want a second wave of this virus.”
She also promised to study the possibility of “air bridges” that could allow travel to destinations with low rates of coronavirus infections.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the quarantine move would “kill off aviation as long as it is in place”.
He said: “As long as the quarantine is in place then nobody is going to be flying any more than we have today, which is only about 5,000 passengers daily, when normally we would expect at this time of year nearly a quarter of a million passengers.
“If this is what the Government needs to do to keep people safe and avoid another outbreak of the disease, then I think we have to support that.”
But Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary described the move as “bonkers”.
He said: “Every passenger arriving at every UK airport uses public transport to travel to their destination and the idea that you should only isolate them after they’ve all used public transport shows how ineffective a quarantine is.”