On Friday 22 May, Priti Patel announced that the UK would be introducing a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, including British citizens, from 08 June.

This was a long-waited for announcement after Boris Johnson’s assertion on 10 May that ‘it will soon be the time’ to start quarantining arrivals.

After the endless confusion of last week, it’s no surprise that we have ended up with the wrong policy at the wrong time.

The Wrong Time

An effective quarantine should have been introduced in March when the UK first introduced lockdown measures to control the virus.

Before the UK quarantine has even started, Italy has announced it will be accepting tourists from 03 June, Greece from 15 June and Spain from July.

Chris Goater from IATA summed it up well:

“Other countries are starting to move away from quarantines so why does the UK government think it is needed now?”

A spokesperson from Airlines UK agreed:

“Introducing a quarantine at this stage makes no sense”

Earlier this month the only countries in the world not to have a quarantine policy in place were the UK and Iran:

The Wrong Policy

The proposed quarantine makes little sense.

Where is the logic in preventing an arrival from New Zealand (a country that has eliminated Covid-19), but allowing someone to travel from Sunderland (1400 cases on 24 May) to London?

Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary, observed that the reasoning does not stack up:

“You’re asking people voluntarily to self-isolate for two weeks when they don’t have any symptoms.”  

It is self-evident that an untargeted quarantine will hamper efforts to concentrate on people who are the real risk.

With limited resources and without police assistance, this policy is unenforceable and does not fit the much-publicised rationale behind ‘track-and-trace’.

Why this, why now?

It also demonstrates the complete disregard the UK government has for the UK travel industry. So much so that Noel Josephides, chairman of Aito, suspected that there might be an ulterior motive:

“I feel that the Government does not really want to encourage overseas travel as it mistakenly seeks to boost domestic holiday making.”

The government may be mindful of the fact that the UK would benefit financially from a complete lockdown on overseas travel.

Perhaps the government are simply looking to do some political point-scoring. Gilbert Ott from God Save The Points suggested that:

“The only hope of this being anything other than totally idiotic would be using it as a measure to satisfy foreign governments in the interim”

But when even The Telegraph (once known as the Torygraph) comes out against a Conservative policy, it’s a clear sign that this is another Covid-19 policy the government has completely misjudged:

“Revisiting this plan makes more sense than spouting gibberish”

As Matthew Parris in The Times hopes, maybe a compromise (read: U-turn) can be achieved before the policy can even be introduced:

“Is there nobody […] who understands that revisiting this plan with good grace now makes more sense than stubbornly spouting gibberish until it all ends up in an inglorious heap?”