Picardo ‘confident’ of Gib exemption from UK air travel quarantine regime
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he was “very confident” that “common sense will prevail" and Gibraltar will be exempted from the 14-day quarantine period the UK will apply to air passengers arriving in Britain.
This follows Boris Johnson’s announcement of a 14-day quarantine for international air passengers during an address to the nation on Sunday evening as the UK also begins its transition out of lockdown restrictions.
Guidance released on Monday said all international arrivals not on a “short list” of exemptions will be required to self-isolate for 14 days in their accommodation.
Speaking at the daily press briefing from No.6 Convent Place, Mr Picardo said his Government was watching the decisions of their UK counterparts and “feeding in our own views” in respect of Gibraltar.
The quarantine measure was being introduced to “manage the risk” of new infections coming from abroad as social contact increases while the UK’s infection level decreases.
Mr Picardo said: “If you were being very empirical in your approach you would say it would be Gibraltar that would have to protect itself from arrivals from the United Kingdom not the United Kingdom that would have to protect itself from arrivals from Gibraltar.”
He added that if “common sense did not prevail” and the measure remained applicable to arrivals from Gibraltar, the measure would need to be reciprocated.
“I imagine there will also be very few flying in either direction if that is the case and I also imagine that that will be the position in relation to most other European and indeed international destinations from the UK,” he said.
The quarantine measure will not apply between France and the UK, and Mr Picardo said it would very hard to explain that “discrimination” toward Gibraltar if the measure prevails.
The move to seek an exemption from the quarantine measure was backed by the GSD Opposition.
The party highlighted the effect the measure would have on any person leaving Gibraltar and the hundreds of retuning Gibraltar students.
“It will increase the locked status of Gibraltar and lessen any prospect of business travel or UK tourism to Gibraltar,” a party statement read.
GSD Leader Keith Azopardi, who had discussed the issue with Mr Picardo, said: “These are issues that require discussion at an intergovernmental level to ensure that travel can happen without imposition of further or unnecessary restrictions given that, at present, there are very few cases of COVID in Gibraltar.”
“We should seek an exemption for Gibraltar from this UK quarantine restriction.”
Under the UK guidance issued on Monday, international travellers into the UK will have to tell border officials where they will self-isolate for 14 days or face quarantining in Government-arranged accommodation.
They will be required to supply contact and accommodation information and will also be “strongly advised” to download and use the NHS contact-tracing app on their phones.
“Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government,” the document said.
There will also be increased information about the UK’s social distancing policies displayed at the border.
Some exemptions will be in place to provide “continued security of supply into the UK” as well as not impeding work in national security or critical infrastructure.
The document also said that all journeys within the common travel area – which covers the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Ireland – will be exempt from the measures.
It added the Government was working closely with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to co-ordinate the policy across the UK.
The 14-day quarantine period will apply to British citizens as well as foreign nationals.
There will be some exemptions to the measures “to meet the UK’s international obligations”, the guidelines said.
Mr Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron previously agreed that quarantine measures would not apply between France and the UK “at this stage”, according to a joint statement issued after the address.
The document said the quarantine was being introduced to “manage the risk” of new infections coming from abroad as social contact increases while the UK’s infection level decreases.
It is unclear whether the guidance will apply to air passengers alone or if other forms of international transport will be covered.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, said there was “nothing positive” in the Prime Minister’s address and expressed his surprise.
Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee about the demand for air travel, Mr Walsh said: “The announcements yesterday of a 14-day period (for people) coming into the UK, it’s definitely going to make it worse.”