'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self …

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‘Coronavirus passports’ and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self-isolate for 14-days from June 8

  • From June 8 all arrrivals to the UK must self-isolate for 14 days under new rules 
  • But ministers hope to strike quarantine-free pacts with summer destinations
  • Also examining the idea of ‘Covid passports’ for those who have had the disease
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

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Virus passports and travel corridors could allow families to travel abroad this summer.

A quarantine regime will be introduced on June 8 requiring arrivals to the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. But ministers hope to strike quarantine-free pacts or ‘air bridges with summer destinations – such as France, Spain and Greece – by August and possibly July.

They are also examining the idea of ‘Covid passports’ to let those who have had the disease travel more widely and without having to go into quarantine on their return.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she is ‘absolutely open’ to the idea of air bridges between nations sparking fresh hope for Britons wanting to travel abroad in the summer months. 

The new border regime will apply to almost all arrivals, including incoming Britons. 

Rule breakers face an initial fine of GBP1,000. Further non-compliance could result in unlimited fines.

Limited quarantine exemptions will be allowed for truck drivers, seasonal fruit pickers and a small number of essential workers.

The ban is understood to have been opposed by multiple cabinet ministers, including transport Secretary Grant Shapps and business secretary Alok Sharma. 

Virus passports and travel corridors could allow families to travel abroad this summer. Pictured: Passengers wearing PPE queue up to board a China-bound flight at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport today

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Passengers wearing personal protective equipment queued up to board a flight at Heathrow Airport today

Ms Patel said: ‘When it comes to air bridges, look, I think we should be absolutely open to all ideas.’

‘This is not for today, but this doesn’t mean we should rule this out in the future.’

Ms Patel said quarantine was vital to prevent new cases of coronavirus being brought in from abroad.

But the policy was criticised by the aviation and tourism sectors, the wider business community and even some Tory MPs.

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Plexiglass panels protect an umbrella and sunbeds as a preventive measure taken to curb the spread of coronavirus in Santorini

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Priti Patel today announced all travellers returning to the UK from abroad will face a mandatory 14 days in quarantine 

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ... 'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

The strict new rules

What is going to happen?

All passengers arriving in the UK will have to fill in a form before heading to Britain.

This will include British nationals coming home, as well as foreign visitors. You must provide the address at which you will be staying in the UK – and self-isolate there. You will not be allowed to leave that address at all, or receive visitors, for 14 days.

How will it work?

Passengers will be able to complete ‘contact locator form’ on the Government’s website up to 48 hours before departure.

There will be no paper versions of the form. Failing to complete the form before travelling is a crime, but there will be a short grace period and allow travellers to fill in the form electronically in the arrivals hall.

How will this be enforced?

There will be spot checks to ensure all passengers have completed a form. Border Force staff will interview people as they leave planes and at border checkpoints.

What happens if I refuse to fill in a contact locator form?

You will be given an on-the-spot GBP100 fine by Border Force officers.

When will this come into force?

June 8.

What checks will take place during the 14-day period?

Public health officials will carry out random checks by telephone.

If these raise doubts, police will visit the address, issuing a fine where necessary.

What happens if I leave the address I provide in the form?

In England, you will be issued with a GBP1,000 spot fine. You could even be prosecuted, and face an unlimited fine if convicted. The fine could increase beyond GBP1,000 if the ‘risk of infection from abroad increases’, the Home Office says.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have their own enforcement systems.

Will foreign visitors be treated differently?

Yes. They could be removed from the UK ‘as a last resort’ if they fail to comply, the Home Office says. Officials could also refuse entry to non-UK nationals who are resident here.

But they cannot refuse entry to British nationals.

Can I use public transport to travel from the airport to my isolation address?

Yes, but the Home Office says it would be preferable if you used your car.

Why is all this necessary?

The Government says it must be able to contact you if it emerges, for example, that someone on your flight is diagnosed with coronavirus. And if you get sick, the authorities will be able to warn everyone you came into contact with.

What if I don’t have a suitable address to go to for 14 days?

The Government will provide isolation accommodation – possibly at similar venues to those used by travellers coming back from China earlier this year. The traveller will have to pay for this.

Backbencher David Davis claimed quarantine should not be used to ‘punish’ countries who ‘have handled the coronavirus better than us’.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw responded to Mr Davis’s tweet by stating: ‘Not often I agree with David Davis, but he’s right to say there’s a stronger case for quarantining arrivals at Kings Cross from Yorkshire than on arrivals from low infection countries like Greece, Malta and Portugal.’ 

Different parts of the UK have a different R rate, which is used to indicate how fast the virus is spreading. 

R rates calculated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine this week suggest the East Midlands has the fastest spread of infection, with a rate of between 0.8 and 1.2.

On the other hand, London, which was the hardest hit part of the UK, has a current R rate of 0.5 to 0.8, the lowest in the country.

The government previously confirmed it will not vary the lifting of lockdown by region. 

Tim Alderslade, of the industry group Airlines UK, said: ‘All a blanket quarantine will do is shut down aviation and the travel industry.

‘We need to be much more targeted and risk-based, opening up travel corridors with low-risk countries that more effectively achieves our public health objectives while enabling people to get away this summer.’

Adam Marshall, of the British Chambers of Commerce, said blanket restrictions would ‘damage international business and investor confidence at a time when it is vital to demonstrate that the UK can open for business safely’. 

Charlie Cornish, CEO of Stansted Airport in Essex said: ‘A blanket quarantine will seriously jeopardise the long term future of the sector and put tens of thousands of jobs, and billions of pounds of economic value, at risk.’

The rules, which will be reviewed every three weeks and do not apply to Ireland, came as:

  • It emerged London could lead the way out of lockdown, with talks next week on letting cafes and restaurants open for outdoor service
  • An exclusive Mail poll suggested employees do not want to go back into work because they fear the lockdown is being eased too quickly;
  • Health officials suggested that the two-metre rule could be eased;
  • A row broke out over the official advice from Government scientists about the reopening of schools;
  • The country’s top obesity and diabetes doctor said families were likely to have piled on weight in the lockdown; 
  • Official figures showed government borrowing hit GBP62billion last month – almost as much as the figure for the whole of last year;
  •  Scientists hit out at the official response to the pandemic, suggesting the lockdown delay may have cost lives;
  • Council bosses and police forces began taking drastic measures to keep holidaymakers away from beauty spots over the bank holiday;
  • The leader of the NHS suggested it could fill thousands of vacancies by retraining staff from troubled industries such as airlines;
  • The testing tsar said thousands of kits posted to homes have not been returned;

Who is exempt from the government’s mandatory 

Here is the list of people exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement.

– A road haulage worker and road passenger transport worker

– A transit passenger, an individual transiting to a country outside of the Common Travel Area, who remains airside and does not pass border control

– An individual arriving to attend pre-arranged treatment, when receiving that treatment in the UK

– A registered health or care professional travelling to the UK to provide essential healthcare, including where this is not related to coronavirus

– A person who has travelled to the UK for the purpose of transporting, to a healthcare provider in the UK, material which consists of, or includes, human cells or blood which are to be used for the purpose of providing healthcare

– Quality assurance inspectors for human medicines

– Sponsors and essential persons needed for clinical trials or studies

– Civil aviation inspectors engaged on inspection duties

– Eurotunnel train drivers and crew, Eurotunnel Shuttle drivers, freight train drivers, crew and essential cross-border rail freight workers operating through the Channel Tunnel

– A Euratom inspector

– Workers engaged in essential or emergency works, related to water supplies and sewerage services

– Workers engaged in essential or emergency works related to a generating system, an electricity interconnector, a district heat network, communal heating, automated ballast cleaning and track re-laying systems or network

– A worker undertaking activities in offshore installations, upstream petroleum infrastructure, critical safety work on offshore installations and wells

– Workers engaged in essential or emergency works

– Drivers and crew of trains operated by Eurostar International Limited, essential cross-border workers working for Eurostar International Limited

– Operational, rail maintenance, security and safety workers working on the Channel Tunnel system

– A worker with specialist technical skills, where those specialist technical skills are required for essential or emergency works or services  

– Seamen and masters

– A pilot, as defined in paragraph 22(1) of Schedule 3A to the Merchant Shipping Act

– An inspector, and surveyor of ships

– Crew, as defined in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Air Navigation Order 2016(h), where such crew have travelled to the UK in the course of their work

– Nuclear personnel who are essential to the safe and secure operations of a licensed nuclear site

– Nuclear emergency responder

– Agency inspector

– An inspector from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a specialist aerospace engineer, or a specialist aerospace worker

– A person engaged in operational, maintenance or safety activities of a downstream oil facility that has a capacity in excess of 20,000 tonnes

– A postal worker involved in the transport of mail into and out of the UK

– A person involved in essential maintenance and repair of data infrastructure

– An information technology or telecommunications professional whose expertise is required to provide an essential or emergency response to threats and incidents relating to security

– A person who is engaged in urgent or essential work on electronic communications networks

– A person who is engaged in urgent or essential work for the BBC’s broadcasting transmission network and services

– A seasonal agricultural worker 

– Members of diplomatic missions and consular posts in the United Kingdom

– Crown servants or government contractors returning to the United Kingdom who are either: required to undertake policing or essential government work in the United Kingdom within 14 days of their arrival, have been undertaking policing or essential government work outside of the United Kingdom but are required to return temporarily, after which they will depart to conduct policing or essential government work outside the United Kingdom

– International prison escorts – a person designated by the relevant Minister under section 5(3) of the Repatriation of Prisoners Act 1984(a)

– A person responsible for escorting a person sought for extradition pursuant to a warrant issued under Part 3 of the Extradition Act 2003 or sought for extradition pursuant to any other extradition arrangements

– Defence personnel and contractors doing work necessary for the delivery of essential Defence activities, including Visiting Forces and NATO

– An official required to work on essential border security duties

– A person who resides in the UK and who pursues an activity as an employed or self-employed person in another country to which they usually go at least once a week 

Whitehall sources claimed Mr Shapps had fought to keep alive the idea of air bridges and travel corridors, which were initially resisted by Miss Patel who last night said the advice was not to book holidays now. 

But Mr Shapps has already set up a working group to consider how travel corridors could be established in time for the summer break.

Ministers are also examining whether those who have had coronavirus could be exempted from quarantine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed on Thursday that Britain has purchased 10million antibody tests that can tell whether an individual has had the virus.

The vice-chairman of the 1922 committee Sir Charles Walker told The Times: ‘We need to get the country up and running, back on its feet again, generating revenue and wealth that can support families and ultimately be taxed to fund our first-world public health services.

‘A second-world economy does not fund first-world expectations.

We seem to be rushing headlong into a depression.’

Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers added: ‘A blanket application is not justified.’

A police source said enforcing the quarantine ban will not be a priority due to the expected rise in crime rate.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said quarantine would ‘have a hugely damaging impact on the UK inbound and outbound tourism industries’.

A spokesman for Ryanair said the airline was ‘strongly opposed to ineffective non-scientific measures’. 

The quarantine could also have an impact on imports. With people less willing to fly, the number of passenger planes could be reduced. As a lot of passenger planes carry cargo, this would reduce air-freight capacity.

Chief executive of Make UK Stephen Phipson told The Guardian: ‘Industry will be disappointed with this measure which is isolationist and will prevent many essential daily cross-border journeys to provide service and maintenance.’

Programme director of the business lobbying group London First said the quarantine is ‘an indiscriminate response to an increasingly nuanced situation’.

Chief executive of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls added: ‘The imposition of a quarantine period will inevitably damage international visitor travel, and the longer it is in place, the more damage it will wreak.’

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said it was ‘very, very difficult to see how this is actually effective or cost-effective or balanced’.

Ministers fearful of a Tory rebellion over the issue have drawn up the new regulations in a way that means they will not need to hold a vote in the House of Commons. 

Her announcement comes against the backdrop of a mounting backlash from airlines and the wider business community with the aviation industry warning the move ‘makes no sense’ and could harm the UK’s economic recovery. 

Virgin Atlantic has warned the quarantine requirement will mean passenger services cannot resume until August at the earliest and it has urged the government to rely on screening measures instead. 

Some of the more specific details of the new system are not expected to be finalised until the House of Commons returns from its latest recess at the start of June.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had previously raised the prospect of ‘air bridges’ being put in place at a later date in order to connect the UK to low-infection countries and allow Britons to head abroad on holiday.

The confirmation of the plans comes after Australia became the first country to push for an exemption.

Australian PM Scott Morrison is believed to be seeking for his country to be left out of the curbs after it almost wiped out the virus. 

Ms Patel’s announcement came as Britain announced 351 more coronavirus deaths, taking the official number of victims to 36,393.    

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Ms Patel said: ‘The answer as to why we are bringing these measures in now is simple. It is to protect that hard won progress and prevent a devastating resurgence in the second wave of the virus.

‘We are following the science and introducing public health measures that are supported by SAGE.

‘This will require international arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, that is the incubation period of the virus, so that if people have become infected overseas we can limit the spread of the virus at home.

‘As we are taking this action we are taking it at a time when it will be the most effective.

‘Passenger arrivals have been down by 99 per cent compared to the previous year, now we are past the peak of this virus we must take steps to guard against imported cases, triggering a resurgence of this deadly disease.’ 

Ms Patel said that as the domestic rate of transmission continues to fall and the number of people coming to the UK rises, ‘imported cases could begin to pose a larger and increased threat’. 

‘This is of course a different story from when domestic transmission was at its peak and when overseas travel was at an all time low,’ she added.

 

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

The latest Downing Street statistics show the number of daily coronavirus deaths is continuing to fall

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

The R number, showing the rate of transmission, remains the same at between 0.7 and 1.0 with an estimated 61,000 new infections in England every week

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Passengers wearing protective clothing are seen at Heathrow Airport, London, today

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

The Home Secretary said the UK needed to protect the ‘hard won progress’ it has made in the fight against the deadly disease

French fury at quarantine exemption snub 

France last night reacted with anger to Britain’s decision to place all visitors in a mandatory 14-day quarantine – saying it would now do the same to anyone arriving from the UK.

Amid a major backlash at the measures from business and airline groups, a French interior ministry spokesman said: ‘We take note of the British Government’s decision and we regret it.

‘France stands ready to put in place a reciprocity measure as soon as the system actually comes into force on the British side.’ France initially thought it had an exemption from the tough measures starting from June 8, but Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed that this was not the case.

She said the UK needed to protect its ‘hard-won progress’ in the fight against Covid-19 and would not let a ‘reckless minority’ undermine it.

Everyone coming into Britain will have to give an address and phone number to public health officials.

There will be spot checks and anyone found to be breaking rules faces an initial fine of GBP1,000.

Ms Patel said she believed the ‘vast majority’ of people will ‘continue to act responsibly’ and comply with the latest lockdown rules.

But she warned: ‘We will not allow a small minority, a reckless minority to endanger us all so there will be penalties for those who break these mandatory measures.’ 

The devolved nations will be able to set their own enforcement approaches. Ms Patel said the Government will be ‘unafraid’ to increase the value of the initial fine if people flout the rules. 

Critics responded to the announcement by demanding to know why ministers had not imposed such restrictions earlier on during the outbreak. 

The SNP’s shadow home secretary Joanna Cherry QC said that ‘as usual the UK is behind the curve’ and other countries have had similar measures in place ‘for months’.

‘The UK is finally catching up only to find other countries are in the process of moving on,’ she said. 

‘The result is that hundreds of thousands of people have already arrived in the UK without any public health measures in place at ports of entry, to the annoyance and bemusement of the British public.

‘Priti Patel needs to fully explain the scientific advice underlying her inaction to date and the action she now intends to take.’

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

The final details of the quarantine plans are expected to be finalised when the House of Commons returns following its latest recess at the start of June 

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Cyprus will ban British tourists from entering the country when it reopens on June 9

Cyprus will reopen its airports to commercial flights but British tourists will be banned from entering the country.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said that airports would reopen to commercial flights from June 9 after nearly three months of lockdown. 

The phased reopening will initially allow passengers to fly to the small EU state from about 20 countries. 

Britain and Russia are the island’s two largest tourist markets but both are not on the initial lists amid concerns coronavirus has not been sufficiently contained in those countries.  

British tourists account for a third of all arrivals in Cyprus.  

A second phase of easing restrictions will begin on June 20, the minister said after a cabinet meeting that agreed the measures.

During the first phase, visitors will need to have tested negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arriving in Cyprus with a certificate to prove it. 

Cypriot residents can take the test upon arrival in Cyprus and will have to self-isolate until the result is known. 

 

Under the plans, travellers arriving at all ports and airports will be ordered to go into self-isolation for a fortnight and to provide an address and contact details. 

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 Home Office said. 

There is likely to be a small number of exemptions for truck drivers and some other critical roles while transit passengers who do not formally enter the UK will also be exempt.     

Public health officials are expected to conduct approximately 100 spot checks every day to ensure people are sticking to self-isolation. Those checks will start from the middle of June. 

People who arrive in the UK without accommodation arranged will have to pay for Government-arranged accommodation themselves. 

Despite Ms Patel insisting the policy will be reviewed every three weeks, Whitehall sources have played down hopes that the measures could be lifted before the summer holiday season.   

Virgin Atlantic warned the plan would keep planes grounded. 

‘The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first,’ a spokeswoman said. 

‘However, by introducing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the UK, the Government’s approach will prevent flights from resuming. 

Britons may still be able to holiday in Ireland without having to quarantine

Britons may still be able to holiday in Ireland later this summer even though the UK has implemented a blanket quarantine on all arrivals.

Ireland’s Minister for Health Simon Harris said: ‘I am eager to get ahead and it’s up to me to make sure we align as closely as possible with the UK and Ireland in relation to common travel areas, there’s work ongoing in that area.

When asked if that meant that people in the UK could holiday in Ireland this summer and visa versa he said: ‘At the moment yes’.

‘We are continually reviewing our flying programme and with these restrictions, there simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest.’

The airline instead called on the Government to introduce a ‘multi-layered approach’ with targeted public health and screening measures to allow the safe restart of international travel. 

The chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee, had earlier told the Home Affairs Select Committee that drastic reductions in passenger numbers ‘may simply lead to a prolonged shutdown of all aviation’.  

A spokesperson for the Association of Independent Tour Operators told The Daily Telegraph: ‘As with so many Government ‘initiatives’, the 14-day quarantine rule comes across as a bit of a stab in the dark, quite possibly to be changed as quickly as it was introduced, as with the mooted air bridges.

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Airlines have urged the Government not to go ahead with the plans. They believe thermal imaging could be used instead to prevent the spread of the disease

‘Makes more sense to quarantine Yorkshire arrivals in London’: Row as Priti Patel says EVERYONE arriving in UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days from June 8

Britain’s mandatory quarantine on all arrivals has been slammed with some critics saying it would make more sense to quarantine those travelling from the UK’s worst-hit regions to low-risk ones.

Home Secretary Priti Patel today confirmed all travellers returning to the UK will face a mandatory 14 day period in quarantine from June 8.

She said the move will help the UK protect the ‘hard won progress’ it has made in the fight against coronavirus  and that tough border controls would help to prevent a ‘devastating resurgence’.

But the briefing was met with criticism from within her own party with backbencher David Davis claiming quarantine should not be used to ‘punish’ countries who ‘have handled the coronavirus better than us’.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw responded to Mr Davis’s tweet by stating: Not often I agree with David Davis, but he’s right to say there’s a stronger case for quarantining arrivals at Kings Cross from Yorkshire than on arrivals from low infection countries like Greece, Malta and Portugal.’

Yorkshire and the Humber has reported 13,685 coronavirus cases.

This is significantly higher than in the South West of the country where 7,476 diagnoses have been reported. 

Different parts of the UK also have a different R rate, which is used to indicate how fast the virus is spreading. 

R rates calculated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggest the East Midlands has the fastest spread of infection, with a rate of between 0.8 and 1.2.

On the other hand, London, which was the hardest hit part of the UK, has a current R rate of 0.5 to 0.8, the lowest in the country.

The government this week confirmed it will will not vary the lifting of lockdown by region. 

‘In reality, quarantine should have been put in place right at the start of the pandemic, as our European neighbours did – we are now out of synch with them, as they emerge from quarantine and we go into it.’ 

Earlier this week, RyanAir CEO Michael O’Leary – who has previously been an outspoken critique of some measures proposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus – again called on Irish and UK governments to abandon quarantine restrictions. 

‘We call again on the Irish and UK governments to abandon their unexplainable, ineffective, and unimplementable quarantine restrictions,’ he said. 

Piers Morgan lead calls for transparency about why coronavirus carriers were able to fly into the UK in the first place.

He wrote: ‘Of all the inexplicable decisions this Govt has made during the coronavirus crisis, quarantining people who fly into the UK after 20 million people have already flown in and 62,000 people have already died is the most… inexplicable.’

Nigel Farage tweeted: ‘The government quarantine should have been three months ago, not now.

Far too late.’ 

Ms Patel insisted the Government does ‘recognise how hard these changes will be for our travel sector’ and that ministers will work with the industry to find ‘new ways to reopen international travel and tourism in a safe and responsible way’. 

A former head of Border Force said today he was ‘surprised’ quarantine measures had not been brought in at UK borders sooner.

Tony Smith, now chairman of the International Border Management and Technologies Association, told the Commons Home Affairs Committee today: ‘Yes I was surprised that we hadn’t seen earlier measures introduced at the UK border.’ 

Mr Shapps on Monday raised the idea of ‘air bridges’ with popular tourist destinations such as Spain. 

Madrid yesterday signalled it might be prepared to welcome UK tourists from July without asking them to self-isolate for 14 days.  

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘We need to find a way that the vast, vast, vast majority of people who don’t have a disease can still fly.’

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ... 'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Mass coronavirus testing was stopped in mid-March due to the ‘sheer scale of cases in the UK’, says top official

By Sam Blitz For Mailonline

One of Public Health England’s senior health officials revealed coronavirus had already hit hundreds of thousands of people in the UK by the middle of March, contrary to government claims.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director of PHE, said that widespread testing and contact tracing was scrapped by ministers on March 12 due to the ‘sheer scale of cases’ in the UK.

The Government changed their stance on trying to combat the virus on that date as they believed the NHS was the better resource to test those with coronavirus compared to more widespread testing.

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Public Health England director Yvonne Doyle (pictured) said that the decision to abandon widespread testing and contact tracing on March 12 was due to the sheer scale of COVID-19 cases in the UK

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Hundreds of thousands of people had already contracted the virus by the middle of March, meaning government ministers had to shift their focus to testing patients through the NHS

However, Professor Doyle’s comments contradict those of Matt Hancock this week, with the Health Secretary telling the House of Commons on Tuesday that community spreading of the virus was low in early to mid-March.

She said: ‘So we have multiple introductions, with many hundreds of thousands of people by March who had now been exposed to this virus in this country.

‘Contact tracing could not possibly have had the capacity to address that.

‘And with the capacity of lab testing and our contact tracers, we felt the most important thing to do was to focus on where there was national concern, which was the capacity of the NHS, to accrue that testing.’

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) told the House of Commons on Tuesday that the risk of spreading the virus in early to mid-March was low

One country who benefited from widespread testing to their population was South Korea, whose methods in combatting the virus were the subject of international praise. 

Professor Doyle admitted that the UK had looked into replicating South Korea’s treatment model and even stated that the two nation’s methods were very similar in the month of March. 

She added: ‘We did not reject the South Korean model, in fact we were very interested in what was happening internationally from the get-go.

‘The testing capacity and testing profile of PHE’s approach in the contain phase – which is between January and March – was very close to the one of South Korea for quite a long time, into early March.’

'Coronavirus passports' and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced to keep tourism moving amid furious row after Government confirmed all UK arrivals MUST self ...

South Korea’s contact tracing methods have proved successful with minimal cases and life heading back towards normality in recent weeks 

South Korea have recorded 11,142 coronavirus cases since the outbreak began, with 264 deaths so far.

Meanwhile, over 254,000 Britons have contracted the virus with 36,393 fatalities to date. 

Downing Street confirmed that the decision to abandon South Korea’s contact tracing methods on March 12 and move towards testing in an NHS capacity was made by government experts. 

A spokesperson said: ‘It was set out at the time by the Government experts who were attending the daily press conference why they had reached the decision to start focusing their testing on people who were sick in hospital.

‘That’s how I remember the decision making process.’ 

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