Yesterday evening Priti Patel hosted the daily COVID-19 press session and explained or rather did not explain why from 8th June there will be a 14 day quarantine arrangement from people who arrive from outside of the UK with a very small number of exemptions. She was asked very clearly what would happen if someone arrived who did not have anywhere to stay and why the decision was set out for the 8th June, given that the argument for the quarantine seemed to have made sense for the last 8 weeks and yet is not going to take place for another two weeks. She could not answer either questions but fortunately one of her experts answered the first one and explained that anyone who arrives will be offered somewhere to stay for a fortnight and they will be charged accordingly. However no one can explain why this is taking place in over a fortnight when many people would have argued it should have happened many weeks ago. Indeed one of my friends who is a British Citizen but had been abroad for several weeks and returned last weekend was expecting to have to quarantine for 14 days and was rather surprised that she did not need to.
Alongside the presentation that took place at No 10 Downing Street last night, another piece of communication took place yesterday in Parliament earlier in the day. One of our local MPs asked the Department of Transport three questions regarding this same subject. Because Parliament had closed down on Wednesday afternoon for the next 10 days, the questions were both written ones but the answers came back from a Junior member of the Transport Department. Clearly some of us might assume that when decisions are about to be announced by the Government on matters that impact settings such as Airports (Gatwick in the case of Henry Smith) that the MPs who cover such areas would be informed. Even if that was not the case one might assume that the Home Office if it was about to make a decision regarding regular transport conditions, that it would inform the Transport Department it was about to make an announcement and perhaps encourage MPs who have clearly been kept out of the loop so far to listen to the briefing later on in the day.
In terms of the other two questions from Henry and answers from Kelly, they are:
QTo ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to determine the list of exemptions to the proposed 14-day quarantine policy for inbound airline passengers to the UK.
AThe Home Office will be introducing new health protection measures at the border, and details will be published soon. Further queries should be directed to the Home Office.
So just to assist Kelly and indeed inform Henry, these are the current proposals as disclosed last night – The 14-day quarantine will not apply to everyone. The Government is set to publish a more complete list, but among those exempted include road haulage and freight workers and medical professionals travelling to help with the fight against coronavirus. Anyone moving from within the Common Travel Area, covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, will also be spared the 14-day quarantine. Seasonal Agricultural Workers who will self-isolate on the property where they are working.
QTo ask the Secretary of State for Transport, whether it remains Government policy to work with international partners on global common screening standards for international travel.
AThe UK is engaging with a number of key international organisations (including ICAO and IATA), and we are working with our international partners to drive forward a shared agenda on public health measures for international travel. The Government has also established five ministerial-led taskforces to develop plans for reopening sectors which have been heavily impacted by COVID-19, including a taskforce on international aviation. The Government aims to support industry in developing guidance on a baseline set of measures, based on the available evidence, and for these to become widespread and well-understood, thereby avoiding confusion and uncertainty for both industry and passengers.
It would seem that our Government needs some extra assistance when it comes to such communication breakdowns. If Priti Patel does not even know what someone without a location could do and cannot explain what is so critical about the 8th June that was not relevant at say the 23rd March or somewhere between those two dates, then we do need her and her team to be better informed. The same lack of understanding within the Transport Department and the MPs most likely to be challenged is also very evident!