The UK’s new quarantine exemption
The Department for Transport has announced a new set of exemptions for passengers arriving into the UK. As of 4AM on Saturday, December 5, 2020, select individuals will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival.
Eligible passengers include the following:
- “Individuals undertaking specific business activity which would deliver a significant benefit to the UK economy — including activity that creates or preserves 50+ UK jobs”
- Domestic and international performing art professionals, TV production staff, journalists, and recently signed elite sportspersons
As this decision is described, this is intended to ensure that “industries which require specific, high talent individuals who rely on international connections can continue to complete their work.”
Furthermore, the business travelers who are exempt will only be allowed to meet with others as required by that specific activity during their travels.
The government claims that this shouldn’t raise the risk of domestic coronavirus transmission, due to the protocols being put in place around these exemptions.
We’ll have to wait for all the terms associated with these new rules, which are expected to be published by Saturday.
- Since May the UK has required all travelers coming from “high risk” areas (those outside the travel corridor list) to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival (this is being reduced to 10 days as of December 2020)
- The UK had a lockdown that ended on December 2, and with that all non-essential travel was banned
- The UK will soon be introducing an alternative to the 14 day quarantine; travelers can instead quarantine for five days, and then be released with a negative coronavirus test after that point
Is this an unreasonable policy?
I see a lot of people suggesting things along the lines of “so the rich, powerful, and famous can avoid quarantine, while others can’t? Are they immune from coronavirus?”
I don’t disagree with that sentiment, though I have a few initial thoughts:
- We’re not talking about Australia or New Zealand here, where one case is one too many, and where quarantines are strictly enforced and in monitored facilities; the UK has a lot of coronavirus cases, and it’s reasonable for some cases to slip through the border
- The UK’s current 14 day quarantine is largely unenforced, and is widely violated by people
- I’d like to see the UK do testing on arrival and then maybe another test five days later for business travelers who skip quarantine, but the UK hasn’t done a great job with travel testing across the board
With that in mind, I have reasons I’m both in favor of this and opposed to this:
- Is it completely wrong for us to collectively prioritize someone who is traveling for business in a significant way, rather than someone who wants a weekend getaway to party in Ibiza?
- The fundamental problem is that most business travelers probably consider themselves “high value,” so we’ll have to wait and see the terms associated with this
- Then again, it’s not like the quarantine requirement is enforced for non-business travelers, so I think it’s largely a non-issue
The UK will no longer require select travelers to quarantine when arriving from “high risk” areas. This includes “high value” business travelers, athletes, journalists, and more.
I’m not quite as offended by this concept as other people are. My issue ultimately comes down to enforcement. Who gets to decide what business travelers are high value, or who is a journalist (and for the record, to get out ahead of this, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist)?
I do think travel for someone who can save 50+ jobs in the UK is more important than travel for someone who wants to go on a weekend getaway. I suspect we’ll see quite a bit of abuse of this, but then again, we’ve also seen quite a bit of abuse of the 14 day quarantine. In other words, it’s just business as usual.
What do you make of this new exception for the UK quarantine?