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UK Plan To Quarantine Air Passengers Doesn’t Make Sense, Says Adviser

UK Plan To Quarantine Air Passengers Doesn’t Make Sense, Says Adviser
Jackie Reddy

Late last weekend, Britain’s prime minister revealed plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine for passengers entering the country by the end of the month. Speaking on Sunday, Boris Johnson was quoted by the Guardian as saying, “To prevent reinfection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.”

That decision has drawn criticism from both those who feel that a quarantine plan was put into place too late to protect the country’s borders and from the wider aviation industry, where it is feared that quarantine could further harm operations.

However, an adviser to the British government has spoken anonymously to the outlet and expressed concern that, at a scientific level, Johnson’s quarantine plans may not offer the level of protection needed to mitigate the impact of the virus on the population.

“No Scientific Advice” For Quarantine

The source explained, “There was really no scientific advice to inform the latest announcement. It also doesn’t really make sense for countries which have lower per capita current COVID-19 case numbers than us; for example, most of the EU. That sort of policy only reduces risk in the situation where we have very low case numbers and origin countries have much higher numbers.”

The UK’s policy with regards to the potential health threat posed by inbound travelers has changed dramatically over the past few months, as the outlet notes. Until March 13th, those coming into the country from certain regions of Italy, some parts of China and Iran were asked to self-isolate. Since that time, air travel has all but ground to a halt in the UK.

The view of the anonymous adviser was supported by Professor Gary McLean of London Metropolitan University, who told the outlet, “If our internal community numbers were to drop down to very low by the end of this month it may be worthwhile, but while we’re seeing community transmission here already I don’t know how it’s going to make any difference.”

There has also been a lot of confusion over exactly who will be quarantined, with the British government clarifying that quarantine rules will only apply to air passengers.

There’s nothing to stop someone from New York flying to Paris and taking the Eurostar to London. We started [restrictions] late and we’re finishing early. It’s really crazy. It’s driven by political decisions and economic problems they want to fix. This bolt-on of 14-day quarantine for air travel is just bizarre,” warned the professor, who specializes in molecular immunology.

The UK Government’s Stance

Commenting on behalf of the UK government, a spokesperson told the outlet, “As the prime minister said, we will soon be introducing measures that will mean those arriving in the UK from overseas will be required to self-isolate to help to keep transmission levels low and prevent re-infection from abroad and a second wave of cases that overwhelms the NHS [National Health Service].”

“We have been clear that people should not travel abroad except for essential journeys, and the vast majority of people have complied with our approach which is, and has always been, driven by the latest scientific and medical advice. Passenger arrivals in the UK at the end of April were down by 99%,” they added.

View Comments (8)


  1. sfoeuroflyer

    May 17, 2020 at 1:07 pm

    And what part of the latest “scientific and medical advice” says that people flying from a country with lesser rates of infection cause an increase in risk in the UK? The danger now is that governments are simply “making stuff up” and then appending the words “science” “safety” “medical” or variants of those words to whatever they say. Keep in mind how wrong the “scientists” and “medical people” have been up till now. Nothing more so that the UK virus models and the scare headlines they provoked.

  2. jjmoore

    May 17, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Singapore’s harsh laws haven’t stopped COVID-19. No reason to throw people in jail for leaving their hotel rooms. This is by definition what a police state looks like, and before this, I thought Singapore was better than this. What a shame

    Thank GOD I live in the greatest country on earth – the United States of America.

  3. MimiB22

    May 19, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Nonsensical ! If someone from abroad can enter the UK via ferry or Eurostar, withoug quarantine, what is the point of requiring air travelers to isolate themselves? I’m all for protective public health measures, but the stupidity of some “rules” and how badly they’re administered is mindboggling. I live in Florida and we had wildly inconsistent rules for New Yorkers coming down here to escape the raging corona virus outbreak there, so way after the fact, way after thousands had come here to Florida, we also experienced extreme levels of infections. Quarantines weren’t enforced, people from NYC and the tri-state area could enter Florida via alternate routes… and they did. I was in a grocery store in March and overheard some NYCers bragging about they had just arrived and gotten away from the outbreak.. and there they were out in public, in our grocery store, touching, breathing on groceries and other shoppers.

  4. flyerkit

    May 19, 2020 at 6:17 am

    The original decision to keep operating without quarantines (except from some “hot spots”) made sense. Quarantining the few people arriving into the UK would have imposed severe inconvenience and made very little difference to the widespread community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in UK.

    Now that UK has 25,000 new confirmed cases a week – coming down – still 5 times more than Germany, Ital, Spain or France, it makes no sense to impose draconian and probably unenforceabale 14 day quarantine on arrivals, except possibly from certain parts of USA or Brazil.

    The governmant has since indicated that all arrivals (plane, car, train, sea) will be quarantined, but NOT the 15,000 truck drivers and a whole host of other exempt people, including the illegal migrants crossing the channel every day … The “France” anomaly might not now exist – but the Irish route might!

  5. enggeol

    May 20, 2020 at 11:21 am

    This is perhaps the most bizarre decision we have had and one that at one stage was changing by the hour. There is most certainly more risk of someone from say the Cumbria hotspot coming to another area in the UK with low incidence than say someone from a rural area of the south of France flying in. I am beginning to query the competence of UK civil servants – everything appears to be being rushed without someone sitting back and asking is this relevant now?

  6. Richard Bell

    May 20, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    I last flew-in from Thailand late-February, when there were absolutely NO controls at Heathrow, not even temperature-cameras or an announcement, yet on my next two-week visit I’ll have to do 14-days self-quarantine, even though over half of Thailand (including my home province) hasn’t had a single case in 30+ days ? !

    I simply won’t come, nor will anybody else, with all this means for the economy. It will kill the airlines for good !

    By all means ask us to maintain social-distancing, and report if we develop symptoms so they can track contacts, but anything else really is shutting the stable-door in our faces, when the horses are trying to return !

  7. OCJohn

    May 21, 2020 at 5:57 am

    So we can travel to Ireland first and take the ferry across, or France and Eurostar and then go anywhere we want? As the paranoia from this mess dies down and people travel this summer, this just means they will spend their money elsewhere

  8. arcticflier

    May 22, 2020 at 6:11 am

    Some posters don’t seem to take into account that the reason Covid numbers were very low in some area is because of quarantine measures. For example, Thailand. There will be new regional hot spots as mitigation efforts are lowered.

    I am not offering an opinion on Boris Big Plan but lets atleast use sound reasoning when attempting to complain about Boris’ absence of the same.

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