Covid-19: Enforcement of travel quarantine rules ‘to be stepped up’

Enforcement against Britons including contractors who refuse to self-isolate when they arrive in the UK from a country not on the government’s coronavirus ‘safe list’ is to be stepped up.

After penalties for such arrivals who refused to quarantine barely reached double-figures, Grant Shapps said people flouting the 14-day order would in future “get a criminal record”.

“You are endangering the people you love and others you have never even met,” the transport secretary said in the House of Commons.

“How irresponsible is it to bring a disease back and then spread it around communities and put people’s lives at risk, as well as being at risk of getting a criminal record?”

The minister was speaking after the travel corridor list – which names the countries which Britons do not need to enter quarantine after returning from, became island-specific.

So Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos were all removed from the list (meaning self-isolation for anyone returning from the seven) at 4am this morning.

'Reflecting on the 4am system further'

But upon questioning by his fellow MPs, Mr Shapps indicated that the small-hours start for countries to be declared as requiring quarantine, could be changed.

“The usual pattern is in the afternoon on a Thursday with the measures then coming in at 4 am,” the minister said.

“It is a judgment call and I am not going to pretend otherwise. As I said, I will certainly be reflecting on this further.”

In fielding questions in the Commons, Mr Shapps, a former pilot, warned that UK air passengers could now be fined if they fail to fill in a new passenger locator form.

“It had to be brought in at great speed during the crisis, but it is now ensuring that we know where passengers are coming from. If people do not fill it in, that is an offence and they can and are being fined,” he said.

'All but essential'

In line with his comments, the Border Agency says the on-the-spot fines start at £100 but can be increased for passengers who repeatedly fail to complete the form, which is online-only.

For contractors, the form will add to the long list of practical requirements they must now consider and meet after “all but essential” travel abroad.

Access Financial, an international contract management firm, reflected to ContractorUK:

'Contractors getting stuck'

“Contractors from the UK might need to take into account their customers’ stance on the potential situation of a contractor being unexpectedly stuck due to covid-19 restrictions.

“Either stuck in a third country due to the Covid-19 limitations there, or here where they might need to self-isolate and might be unable to leave home or go out to see their clients.”

Contractors in IT should find both sets of restrictions less of an issue, says the firm’s Nikolas Papageorgiou, for being “top of the list of workers whose work can be done remotely.”

“Nonetheless, it’s still worth checking the client is going to be happy to continue the relationship, knowing you cannot be on-site for 14 days [if you have to self-isolate].

“Other than that,” he added addressing IT contractors, “arrange for someone to drop off groceries during any self-isolation period. It is certainly an unpleasant situation to be in after a vital trip overseas, although it’s not an insurmountable obstacle.”

'Certainty for business travellers'

Meanwhile, Mr Shapps said the government would introduce a covid-19 test and tracking system specifically for passengers arriving in the UK, to give “certainty to holidaymakers and business travellers alike.”

Of the existing 14-day quarantine requirement, the minister warned: “We will be stepping up enforcement. In particular, I know that phone calls are made to one in five people…and text messages will be sent. People should be aware that enforcement will be increasingly stepped up.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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