Priti Patel has been forced to defend the Government’s planned travel quarantine rules from Conservative MPs who claim such measures will “ground the aviation industry”.
The Home Secretary has unveiled details of the regulations, which will require everyone coming into the UK from Monday to self-isolate for 14 days.
She defended the rules in the House of Commons today despite opposition from her own Tory colleagues, who say the plans are damaging to business.
Tory MP Dr Liam Fox, former International Trade Secretary, said: “I’m afraid I simply cannot get my head around the public health mental gymnastics of this policy.
“If such a barrier was required, why was it not introduced earlier in the outbreak? And if it is a contingency measure against a so-called second wave, why apply it to countries with a lower infection rate than we already have?”
Winchester Conservative MP Steve Brine added: “If I’m honest I think many people will think this is the right move at the wrong time. We keep being told to use our common sense.
“The idea that this was wrong when Europe was at the centre of a pandemic and right now. It doesn’t add up to me.”
The rules will apply to anyone, including UK nationals, arriving into the country by air, rail or ferry. Those who do not comply could be fined up to £1,000.
Dr Ben Spencer, who was elected as MP for Runnymede and Weybridge at the 2019 election, told the Commons: “The introduction of a 14-day quarantine is a very blunt tool with many downsides and consequences and it effectively grounds the aviation industry.”
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers urged Ms Patel to suspend the implementation of the quarantine rules to give a few more weeks to establish air corridors, save jobs and allow families to go on holiday.
While Sir Desmond Swayne called for the review of the policy to brought forward by ten days “to limit a second wave of economic damage”.
Ms Patel paid tribute to the aviation industry but said it was an international crisis, adding: “Planes are still flying and goods are coming into the United Kingdom.
“Of course this is an international crisis, no one person, no one organisation has a bespoke way of working throughout this crisis for the aviation sector.”
In her statement to the Commons, Ms Patel said the UK is past the peak of coronavirus but the country is “now more vulnerable to new infections being brought in from abroad”.
She said: “The transmission rate in the UK continues to decline and international travel is likely to resume from its record low.
“Therefore the scientific advice is that imported cases of the virus pose a more significant threat to our national effort.
“Travellers from overseas could become a higher proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK and increase the spread of the disease.
“The Government is acting now by taking a proportionate and time-limited approach to protect the health of the British people.”