A 14-day quarantine imposed on all overseas arrivals in the UK to avoid a second peak in the coronavirus pandemic would have a “devastating impact” on aviation, industry leaders have warned.
The rule is expected to be announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on Sunday and apply to all arrivals, including Britons returning from abroad, with the exception of those travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man and key workers.
People arriving in the UK would have to self-isolate at a private residence, according to consumer media reports.
The measures are likely to become into force in early June, just as airlines and operators had hoped for a gradual return of summer holiday travel arrangements.
There was speculation today that the scheme could stay in place until late summer or early autumn.
People arriving in the country would be requred to provide details of where they are self-isolating on a digital form to be checked at airports and Eurostar stations. Fines of up to £1,000 could be imposed on rule breakers.
Aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst is expected to clarify the policy to airline and airport representatives in a conference call scheduled for Saturday morning.
UK airports suggested that a quarantine “would not only have a devastating impact on the UK aviation industry, but also on the wider economy”.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said the measure should be applied “on a selective basis following the science” and “the economic impact on key sectors should be mitigated”.
Airlines UK said the policy needed “a credible exit plan” and should be reviewed weekly, adding that it needed to see the details of the government proposals.
Carnival UK chairman David Dingle told BBC Breakfast that a 14-day quarantine rule would make life for the cruise industry “extremely difficult indeed”.
He added: “But it does depend on what we mean by a quarantine and exactly what the rules might be.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed last Sunday that he was “actively looking at these issues, right now, so that when we have infection rates within the country under control we’re not importing”.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that it was important “that we do ensure that the sacrifices, in a sense, social distancing, that we’re asking the British people to make are matched by anyone who comes to this country”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not comment on leaks. The focus remains on staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
A quarantine would match measures introduced by other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
France is to follow suit on Monday, although Britons and those from countries in the Schengen zone will be exempt.
Thousands of people have flown into the UK during the pandemic, although the government says the vast majority were returning home.