Katy Balls

How long can No. 10’s quarantine policy survive?

How long can No. 10's quarantine policy survive?
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Today marks the start of the government's coronavirus quarantine policy with those arriving into the UK told to self-isolate for two weeks. To say the policy is unpopular with Tory MPs would be an understatement. It's also been queried by scientists, many of whom point out that it would only really have an impact in terms of people arriving from high infection countries. Given that the UK is currently at a higher infection level than many of its neighbours, that effect is questionable. The aviation industry also despises it, with a number of airline companies mooting legal action.

While polling suggests the policy does for now have the backing of members of the public, these factors mean that had the policy been put to a vote it would have struggled to have passed. However, no vote is required. The new policy has been introduced as a statutory instrument to the 1984 Public Health Act which means it becomes law without a vote. However, MPs do get a say on renewing the measures after three weeks. This is why many in government don't believe the policy will survive in its current form past the month. 

One minister is braced for the next few weeks to be dominated by stories of the system failing and people slipping through the net. A Home Office leak to the Telegraph suggests that even those developing the policy have doubts as to how it will actually work. There are concerns about how Border Force officials will ensure details submitted are ‘genuine’ when it comes to primary residence for those two weeks.

A compromise arrangement that could get the backing of sceptical Tory MPs would be to keep the policy in place but add to the list of exemptions a sizeable list of countries with which the UK agrees 'air bridges'. These would likely be low infection countries that want Britons to travel for tourism. 

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor. She is also a columnist for the i paper.

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