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Immigration update - imposition of quarantine rules
The government has said that the requirement to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the UK will apply to individuals travelling here by any means, including air, ferry or train and includes those returning to or arriving at work in the UK from overseas.
Although few specific details have been announced officially, the government’s official Covid-19 Recovery Strategy Document states that they will set out further detail, including from when these will be in force, in due course. There is to be a small list of exemptions, details of which will be set out by the government shortly.
What we know so far from the strategy document:
- Upon arrival, UK Border Force will require all international arrivals (see exemptions and related issues below) to supply their contact and accommodation information. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app. Those who are not on a short list of exemptions, will be required to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival in the UK. Importantly the government’s strategy document states that where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they will self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the government.
- The government has said in the strategy document that all journeys within the Common Travel Area (which includes Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man) will be exempt.
- There will be exemptions for key freight arrivals, food supplies and critical national security supply and infrastructure. We are waiting for the government to specifically confirm which sectors will be included in the short list of exemptions.
Questions and issues
- We do not yet know when the requirements will come into force and how long will they last for. It would however appear that these measures will continue until at least July, and could last longer.
- Although it has been widely reported that arrivals from France will be exempt, this has not been announced officially. There are several issues to consider, such as whether there could be an EU legal challenge to this exemption, primarily due to Freedom of Movement provisions and the EU Commission requiring on this basis that the exemption should apply to all EU countries. The government is yet to clarify how this will work in practice, especially for those travellers who are only transiting in France or staying for less than 14 days in France before their arrival to the UK.
- We also await further clarification on how the government intends to enforce these requirements. Although it has not been set out in the strategy document, it has been reported that the police will be authorised to conduct spot checks on individuals self-isolating at the address provided to confirm that they are adhering to the requirements. It has also been said that non-compliance can lead to fines and/or removal from the UK, although this has not been confirmed officially.
- A significant number of travellers already use e-gates at UK ports on arrival. It remains to be seen how the Border Force will confirm those travellers’ contact and accommodation information on arrival; and whether any pre-arrival requirement/solution will be provided for this or if the Border Force will close e-gates and require all arrivals to present their passport and information to an Immigration Officer.
It appears that the UK government is currently in consultation with various stakeholders on the way forward to implementation. If (when) this requirement is introduced, it may not, in the short term, be practical to visit the UK for short business trips. However, the proposed provisions should have relatively little or no impact on long term arrivals to the UK, such as Tier 2 workers, other work sponsored employees and those arriving in the UK on family visas. For these individuals, it may be possible to work from home for two weeks before travelling to their place of work. It does however mean that some additional planning may be required to ensure that arrival in the UK goes smoothly, in order to ensure that individuals can meet their obligations whilst also complying with the requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.
We will provide updates on this as and when the government confirms what is set out on the strategy document and makes further announcements.
If you have any questions about these issues in relation to your own organisation, please contact a member of the team or speak with your usual Fox Williams contact.
Articles and commentary by our legal experts on the impact of Covid-19 are all available here.