The 14-day quarantine rule for travellers to the UK has no firm end date – and will instead be reviewed every three weeks, the government confirmed today.
The news will be a blow to airline bosses, who believe they will be crippled by laws on almost everyone arriving in the UK – including returning Brits.
Within days people arriving from any country except Ireland will soon have to isolate for two weeks – with exemptions only for some people like lorry drivers or scientists.
Critics have blasted the government for only introducing quarantine months after the outbreak was imported to the UK.
But airline chiefs have warned the quarantine will devastate their business with Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary branding it “idiotic” and “unimplementable”.
And travel firms have been desperate for clarity on when British families will know if they can take a foreign holiday.
Downing Street today declined to give a firm end date, instead revealing the quarantine will be assessed on a “rolling” basis.
“Any changes brought in will be subject to a rolling review every three weeks to ensure they’re in line with the latest scientific advice and that they remain effective and necessary,” Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said.
Current Foreign Office advice is for Brits to avoid all non-essential travel. There has no firm end date either.
The three-weekly reviews are likely to line up with the legal review of lockdown every three weeks.
That could mean the quarantine for people arriving in the UK launches next Thursday, May 28, because that is the date of the next review.
Downing Street stressed there was still no launch date, adding: “We’ll set out the full details at a later stage.”
It comes after the government dashed hopes of a “French exemption” for Brits to take holidays on the continent quarantine-free.
No10 today insisted “there was never an exemption for France”, and pointed to an ambiguously-worded government statement that said there was no UK-French quarantine “at this stage”.
No10 emphasised the words “at this stage”, adding: “What the statement said was there will be no quarantine in relation to France at this time.
“It was never correct to suggest there was going to be an exemption for France only.”
The UK government is preparing to force all arrivals at all ports and airports to go into self-isolation for 14 days, starting in a few weeks.
People will be ordered to give the address they are quarantining at, and if they do not, could be forced into a government-run quarantine facility.
It’s understood officials are looking at exemptions for some people who arrive to the UK – such as freight drivers or scientists working on the pandemic.
But those exemptions will only be “tightly drawn”, a senior government source said.
The only exemption for an entire country will be the Republic of Ireland, due to the Common Travel Area between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
That raises the prospect that people living in Belfast could fly from Dublin and have a holiday quarantine-free.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman insisted that problem would be dealt with once the exact policy is confirmed.
He told reporters: “The Common Travel Area is not a new thing and we are used to dealing with the repercussions of having the Common Travel Area.
“So I just urge you to wait until we set out more details of the policy.”