Britain plans to impose a two-week quarantine on people arriving in the country, other than from Ireland, in a bid to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, according to an airline industry group, Airlines UK.
The government is expected to provide details of its plans on Sunday, but the move highlights the acute challenge facing political leaders as they contemplate how to begin lifting the containment measures that have slowed the spread of the virus without unleashing a new surge in infections.
In Britain’s case, the plan also illustrates the imperatives and the difficulties of coordinating with neighboring countries and those with the closest or most numerous travel connections.
The EU has been trying to align the approaches of its 27 member countries, which together imposed a ban on non-essential travelers from outside the bloc. At that time, the EU announced it would treat U.K. citizens the same as EU residents.
But the U.K., which quit the EU earlier this year, now has responsibility for its own arrangements. It must take particular account of Ireland because of the two countries’ Common Travel Area.
As news of Britain’s plans emerged on Saturday, a French official said that Paris would request a collaborative approach.
“We are working on getting an exception for EU and Schengen citizens, but if we don’t agree on one, a reciprocal quarantine for British citizens entering the EU and Schengen will have to be imposed,” a French diplomatic official told POLITICO.
Airlines UK said that government officials had told airline companies they plan to impose the quarantine. But the industry body said it was waiting to learn details of the plan.
“Public health must of course be the priority,” the group said in a statement. “We will be asking for assurances that this decision has been led by the science and that Government has a credible exit plan, with weekly reviews to ensure the restrictions are working and still required.”
“Alongside this, we also need to see a number of new support measures to see airlines through this period so that we still have a UK aviation sector once the quarantine period is lifted.”
More than 31,300 people have died in the U.K. from COVID-19 — the most fatalities recorded by any country in Europe, including Spain and Italy, which have more coronavirus infections overall.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recovered from COVID-19 after receiving intensive care at a London hospital, has warned against lifting containment measures too quickly.
Andrew Gray and Rym Momtaz contributed reporting.