Game changer, or just a pointless exercise? The United Kingdom, more than four weeks into home lockdowns across the country plans to enforce a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all returning travelers, according to The Telegraph, and seconded by the Mail on Sunday.
If announced, the move will place the UK in line with the vast majority of countries around the world asking, or forcing travelers to remain isolated for 14 days in quarantine. Many countries have gone as far to create guarded facilities to ensure strict adherence.
With initial peaks already believed to be reached, and such a large portion of the population already infected, many wonder whether this is posturing, a bargaining chip, reassurance for those following stay at home orders, or just a combination of the lot. Or is it the brilliant move which allows a safe easing of stay at home orders?
Since the global covid-19 pandemic began, the UK never altered border procedures. In fact, all returning passengers were stunned to see that there was absolutely no heat or health screenings in airports or immigration desks at all. For any returning traveler, it was immigration as usual, without even an odd machine or two to look at.
Despite calls from the World Health Organization not to close borders, virtually all countries have done exactly that, citing that a minimum 39% of cases tend to stem from overseas travel. Many took further steps by creating government supervised quarantines of 14 days, enrolling all returning passengers in hotels or other facilities to enforce the move.
It’s been seen as vital in eliminating variables from stay at home orders, even if it drove some people so crazy, they attempted to order MDMA to their quarantine hotel rooms.
But in the UK, it was never a thing. During weeks of stay at home orders where virtually all non-essential businesses were shuttered, passengers still continued to flow into the UK, with no specific protocols for returning residents or visitors.
Sure, travelers were supposed to stay at home, but going home to others could’ve brought exponential spread of the virus, in a time lockdowns were intended to eliminate them.
By most scientific estimations and models of virus spread, adding mandatory 14 day quarantine restrictions wouldn’t have done much in the case of the UK, because such a choice would’ve only been effective in a much earlier move. Basically, it needed to be done in the earliest days of the virus’ spread, or it would’ve been too late to move the needle, anyway.
Choosing to do so now begs the question of how it would make a difference now, unless it coincides with great news for the UK public, in the form of easing stay at home orders. Imposing a strict 14 day quarantine on all returning visitors would help to eliminate the variable of overseas travel, if the UK is indeed planning to end stay at home orders once the current 3 week extension lifts.
The remaining question then centers around enforcement. The Daily Mail quotes sources inside the briefings, stating that emergency powers including the ability to visit registered addresses and impose fines or even criminal sentences are on the table.
With travel vital to the UK economy, the move could also be a step towards earning privileges back across other borders. Countries will soon begin to ease travel restrictions, and those seen to have employed best practices are more likely to be included in initial opportunities. If this is a step toward opening travel across borders sooner, rather than later, it’s a great move.