New measures at the UK border to guard against a second wave of coronavirus infections have been announced by the Home Secretary today.
They include 14 days’ self-isolation for anyone entering the UK, bar a short list of exemptions.
As the transmission rate in the UK falls, and the number of travellers arriving in the UK begins to increase in the coming months, imported cases may pose a larger threat as they could become a higher proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK and increase the spread of the disease.
We need to take action to manage the risk of transmission from this group.
The measures outlined by the Home Secretary include:
Contact locator form
All arriving passengers will be required to fill this in to provide contact and travel information so they can be contacted if they, or someone they may have been in contact with develops the disease.
Passengers arriving in the UK will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance.
Anyone failing to comply with the mandatory conditions may face enforcement action. A breach of self-isolation would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine. The level of fine could increase if the risk of infection from abroad increases. The Devolved Administrations will set out their own enforcement approaches.
Border Force will undertake checks at the border and may refuse entry to any non-British citizen who refuses to comply with these regulations and isn’t resident in the UK. Failure to complete the form is also punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice. Public health authorities will conduct random checks in England to ensure compliance with self-isolation requirements. Removal from the country would be considered as a last resort for foreign nationals who refuse to comply with these public health measures.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border.
We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.
I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.
Professor John Aston, Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser said:
The scientific advice so far has been clear: while there has been significant community transmission of the virus within the UK the impact of putting in place additional border restrictions would have been negligible to the spread of the virus.
However, the spread of the virus within the UK is now lessening. We have been successful in getting the reproduction number R – the average number of new people infected by one infected person – below 1.
As the number of infections within the UK drops, we must now manage the risk of transmissions being reintroduced from elsewhere.
The arrangements are due to come into effect on 8 June.
Information will be available to incoming travellers, including on the government’s social distancing guidelines, through messaging and announcements in-flight and leaflets and posters on arrival. Materials will be available in English and 9 other languages.
The new regime will be in place across the United Kingdom, although enforcement measures will be set individually by the Devolved Administrations.
Through the new online locator contact form all arriving passengers will need to provide details of their self-isolation accommodation. If this does not meet the necessary requirements - such as hotels, or with friends or family - they will be required to self-isolate in facilities arranged by the government.
People should use personal transport, such as a car, to travel to their accommodation where possible. Once they arrive there, they should not leave their accommodation for 14 days.
This means that they should not go to work, school, or public areas, or use public transport or taxis. They should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential support.
They should not go out to buy food or other essentials where they can rely on others.
Those entering the UK will also be encouraged to download the NHS Covid-19 app at the border and use it for the duration of their stay in the UK.
Once self-isolation is complete people should follow the current government guidelines on social distancing measures.
There will be limited exemptions and a full list will be published on gov.uk. They include:
- road haulage and freight workers, to ensure the supply of goods is not impacted
- medical professionals who are travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus
- anyone moving from within the Common Travel Area, covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man
- Seasonal Agricultural Workers who will self-isolate on the property where they are working
The Home Office has been working closely with industry partners ahead of announcing these changes. They will be subject to review every three weeks, to ensure they are in line with the latest scientific evidence and remain effective and necessary.
The government will continue to look at further options as we move forward and these will include air bridges - agreements between countries who both have low transmission rates to recognise each other’s departure screening measures for passengers and removing the need for quarantine measures for incoming passengers.