Gib tables proposals in bid for exemption from UK quarantine measures
Gibraltar has tabled “specific proposals” to the UK Government in a bid to obtain an exemption for the Rock from 14-day quarantine rules set to come into force on June 8.
Two-week quarantines will be imposed on new arrivals to the UK as from that date, with fines for anyone who breaches the measure to prevent new waves of coronavirus from overseas.
The measure applies to all UK and foreign citizens regardless of their point of origin, and will include air arrivals from Gibraltar.
There is an exemption for passengers travelling to the UK for medical treatment and for an accompanying escort. Those who travel to the UK for work on a weekly basis are also excluded.
On Friday, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo spoke to the Minister for the European Neighbourhood, Wendy Morton, in advance of the announcement.
Gibraltar “…has made specific proposals for the possible exemption of Gibraltar and these will now be discussed further,” No.6 Convent Place said in a statement.
Conservative MPs have also highlighted the issue and called for en exemption for Gibraltar.
Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Gibraltar group in the House of Commons, said he had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while Andrew Rosindell, the MP for Romford, had also previously raised the matter publicly.
— Sir Bob Neill MP (@neill_bob) May 22, 2020
The UK’s restrictions are aimed at preventing a second peak of the disease being introduced by travellers, but the aviation industry has warned they may be devastating for business.
Passengers will have to provide their contact and travel information so they can be traced if infections arise, and they could face random checks from public health authorities to ensure their compliance during the 14-day period.
Breaches would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or prosecution with an unlimited fine, while devolved nations can set out their own enforcement approaches.
Border Force will be able to refuse entry to foreign citizens who are not UK residents during border checks while removal from the country could be used as a last resort, the Home Office said.
Anyone arriving by air, sea or rail will be advised to use personal transport to head to their accommodation and, once there, not leave for 14 days, the likely maximum incubation period for Covid-19.
They will not be allowed to accept visitors, unless they are providing essential support, and should not go out to buy food or other essentials “where they can rely on others”, the department said.
The Home Office said if accommodation does not meet necessary requirements – with hotels, or with friends and family listed as options – they will have to pay to self-isolate in accommodation arranged by the Government.
Home Secretary Priti Patel defended not having imposed the restriction earlier, saying passenger arrivals are down 99% on the previous year but the UK must “guard against imported cases” now the peak is passed.
“The answer as to why we’re bringing in these measures now is simple: It is to protect that hard-won progress and prevent a devastating resurgence in a second wave of the virus,” she told the Downing Street press conference.
“We are taking it at a time that it will be the most effective.”
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance explained that testing at the border would not be effective in reducing transmission because cases are hard to detect soon after infection.
“You start to test positive maybe at around five days, maybe a bit sooner, and you may be shedding a lot of virus for a couple of days then and for a few days afterwards,” he said.
The announcement will likely provoke fresh anger from the aviation industry, with airlines warning the measures could be disastrous for them.
Earlier, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that drastic reductions in passengers “may simply lead to a prolonged shutdown of all aviation.”
The Airlines UK trade body said thousands of jobs and the economy’s recovery would be jeopardised by the plan, and called for ministers’ three-week reviews to be “robust, transparent and evidence-led.”