With returning holidaymakers now required to self-isolate for 14 days, Britons who are retired or able to work from home might consider it a small price to pay for the chance to enjoy a week or two in the sun. After all, we’ve already spent a couple of months living under lockdown – and it wasn’t all that bad, was it?
But a closer look at the new legislation, which came into force on Monday, reveals that the rules are rather more draconian than we’re used to. Under lockdown, we were permitted to leave the house for a daily dose of exercise, and to buy food and other necessities. But returning travellers told to quarantine are not permitted to leave the house to shop, unless they have run out of supplies and nobody else can go for them. They are not permitted to leave for exercise, even a quick jog around the block. Furthermore, there is no “reasonable excuse” clause, which Dominic Cummings notoriously used to his advantage.
The only reasons those self-isolating can leave are:
- To leave England
- To seek medical assistance
- To fulfil a legal obligation (like a court hearing)
- To avoid injury (eg. the house is on fire)
- On compassionate grounds (eg. funeral)
- To obtain necessities where no-one else can do so on their behalf
- To access critical public services
- To move to a new place of self-isolation, but this must be previously outlined in the Passenger Locator Form or for a very good reason (eg. the house has burnt down)
Tom Hickman, a QC at Blackstone Chambers, highlighted the severity of the restrictions on Twitter (his tweets were subsequently picked up by the website Lockdown Sceptics), and reminded followers that the rules are “backed by criminal law sanctions” (£1,000 fines have been threatened, a far harsher punishment than those breaking lockdown faced back in April).
The chances of being caught flouting the rules appear slim – it has been suggested that the police will only carry out 100 spot checks a day – but a glance at the small print might make those considering a holiday in the coming weeks think twice.
Hickman is scathing about the new legislation, adding: “These restrictions on liberty are far more severe than were imposed, and were effective, at the height of the pandemic, when transmission rates in the UK were very high. These are more stringent restrictions on liberty than those people diagnosed with or displaying symptoms of Covid-19 are subject to – seven-day isolation, based on guidance, entirely voluntary and based on individual responsibility.”
(1) So, the 14 day quarantine regs. How do they affect your summer holiday plans? Your work? Let me explain. And let me explain some surprising features of the rules. https://t.co/QrNqFvoZtT
— Tom Hickman (@TomRHickman) June 6, 2020
He also points out that, while ordinary Britons coming back from a summer holiday are expected to stay at home for two weeks, business travellers are exempt and can come and go as they please.
The quarantine policy has been widely ridiculed as unscientific and impossible to enforce and faces a legal challenge by airlines. The Government is facing growing pressure to establish “air bridges” with key destinations like France, Italy and Greece to permit Britons to visit this summer. Arrangements could be in place by the end of the month, according to reports.