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Senior Tories press Home Secretary to change course on quarantine measures

Nick Ansell

By Richard Wheeler
Senior Conservatives have pleaded with Priti Patel to allow Britons to enjoy summer breaks abroad and avoid “unnecessary economic isolation” via quarantine measures.

Former aviation minister Theresa Villiers recommended suspending the blanket requirement, to buy more time to agree “safe air corridors” with other countries.

Liam Fox, another former Cabinet minister, added that he could not get his head around the “public health mental gymnastics of this policy”, which involves people arriving in the country from June 8 being required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The first review of the policy is due on June 28, something backbench MPs pressed Home Secretary Ms Patel to bring forward.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Villiers said: “Can I urge her, suspend the implementation of this blanket quarantine requirement to give just a few more weeks to get those safe air corridors in place so we can save jobs in aviation and let families go on their summer breaks in the sun.”

Tory colleague Mr Fox added: “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?”

“Surely the answer lies in the Government’s test and trace system rather than unnecessary economic isolation.”

Sir Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West) also told the Home Secretary: “Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost if the airlines are unable to fly their crucial peak summer schedules, but the airlines are making those decisions now.”

He asked for clear criteria for air corridors and the first list of safe countries “well before” the three-week review.

Conservative MP Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) called for the UK to move as “quickly as possible” towards a “precise and targeted approach” to help protect passengers, staff and members of the public.

“The introduction of a 14-day quarantine is a very blunt tool with many downsides and consequences and effectively grounds the aviation industry,” Mr Spencer said.

Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne also asked: “To limit a second wave of economic damage, will she bring forward the review of this policy by 10 days?”

Ms Patel replied: “As I have said, the review of this policy has been outlined in the statement and that is the approach we are taking.”

Asked by Tory former minister Paul Maynard whether MPs will feature on the list of exemptions, Ms Patel replied: “This is an issue that has been discussed extensively so I think when Mr Maynard sees the exemption list he’ll be very clear as to who qualifies and who doesn’t.”

Labour former minister John Spellar accused Ms Patel of throwing the industry “under the bus” and putting up a “massive Britain is closed sign.”

Ms Patel said she has been “incredibly supportive” of the aviation industry, adding: “I’m not shutting it down.”

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) called on the Home Secretary to publish the advice “before she destroys our hospitality sector.”

He said: “It was a completely bungled response at the beginning and now the horse has bolted and, of course, our recovery is one of the worst in Europe and our death rates are the second worst in the world, the Government’s now embarrassed and trying to close that stable, but I’m afraid it’s too late.”

Ms Patel said: “It is not my intention to destroy any sectors of our country or our economy and I think that is a gross distortion of the comments and remarks that I’ve made.”
(P)A