As the government briefs airlines and airports on its plan to make arrivals to the UK self-isolate for two weeks, the travel industry has deplored the timing of quarantine.
The aim of the 14-day quarantine is to reduce “transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response,” according to a government source.
But a spokesperson for the Airport Operators’ Association said: “It will halt virtually all passenger traffic for a prolonged period of time and discourage airlines from restarting operations.“
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Tim Jeans, chairman of Cornwall Airport Newquay and former managing director of Monarch told the BBC Today programme: ”To say that it’s come too late would be something of an understatement.
“Here we are seven weeks after the lockdown and this has been announced potentially to come at the end of the month – with an indeterminate cut off.
“Even though we are now potentially past the peak, we’re now going to close our borders. All the plans that airports and airlines had for restarting operations are now on the scrapheap and will have to go back to square one.”
At present the airport at Newquay is closed. It was due to reopen on 1 July, with airlines indicating that was when they intended to resume flying.
But Mr Jeans said the quarantine plan would write off inbound international tourism to Cornwall.
“For tourists coming to Cornwall from Germany, from Scandinavia and elsewhere, that’s the end as far as this summer’s concerned.
“That’s just going to add to the difficulties tourism faces in the county and I’m sure elsewhere in the country.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that quarantine can play a part in dealing with pandemics, but not for the infection phase in which the UK finds itself.
Its official guldance says: “Introducing quarantine measures early in an outbreak may delay the introduction of the disease to a country or area, or may delay the peak of an epidemic in an area where local transmission is ongoing, or both.”
The Independent has learnt that the government appeared to concur with WHO advice before the epidemic took hold in the UK.
In its justification for introducing the option of 14-day quarantine of individuals, the Department of Health said it was of only short-term value: “If and when virus becomes established with sustained widespread transmission in the UK there would no longer be reason to apply these regulations.”
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