United Kingdom

Backlash over quarantine exemption for 'high-value' business travellers

Ministers were accused of letting their 'mates' off quarantine today after 'high-value' business travellers were handed an exemption from self-isolation rules.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said executives returning to England from 4am on Saturday will not have to go into quarantine even if they have come back from a country on the Government's 'red list'.   

He insisted the move will allow 'more travel to support the economy and jobs' and will be subject to strict criteria. 

He also announced that 'certain performing arts professionals, TV production staff, journalists and recently signed elite sportspersons' will also be exempt from self-isolation from this weekend. 

However, the shift drew a furious response from Labour, with Mr Shapps' shadow Jim McMahon saying: 'One rule for those they consider ''high-value'' and another for everybody else.' 

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted: 'Is this a joke? What Is high value? 

'So the Government lets its rich mates in quarantine-free, while the rest of us trying to see our loved ones for Christmas have to quarantine for 5 days & then pay £150 for a test.'  

Ministers were accused of letting their 'mates' off quarantine today after 'high-value' business travellers were handed an exemption from self-isolation rules (file picture of Heathrow airport)

High-value business travellers, sports stars and performing arts professionals will be exempt from England’s quarantine requirement for international arrivals from Saturday, Grant Shapps (pictured) has announced  

The shift drew a furious response from Labour, with Mr Shapps' shadow Jim McMahon lashing out at double standards

Mr Shapps revealed the overhaul last night, saying: 'From 4am on Sat 5th Dec high-value business travellers will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to ENGLAND from a country NOT in a travel corridor, allowing more travel to support the economy and jobs. Conditions apply.'

He added: 'From 4am on Sat 5th Dec certain performing arts professionals, TV production staff, journalists, and recently signed elite sportspersons will also be exempt, subject to specific criteria being met – guidance will be available on soon.'

According to the Department for Transport, people will have to 'meet a set of required criteria' in order to be awarded the business exemption. 

The rules will apply to 'individuals undertaking specific business activity which would deliver a significant benefit to the UK economy – including activity that creates or preserves 50+ UK jobs'.  

The guidance stressed that individuals 'will only be exempt when undertaking the specific business activity and will only be able to meet with others as required by that specific activity'.

More detailed information on the rules is expected to be published by the Government when they come into effect. 

The Department said the exemption for performing arts professionals and sports stars would help to ensure 'that industries which require specific, high talent individuals who rely on international connections can continue to complete their work'. 

'PHE [Public Health England] do not anticipate these changes will raise the risk of domestic transmission, due to the protocols being put in place around these exemptions, however all exemptions will remain under review,' the department added. 

'All travellers, including those from exempt destinations, will still be required to show a complete passenger locator form on arrival into the UK unless they fall into a small group of exemptions.' 

The announcement is likely to be welcomed by the aviation industry and business community.  

The move by Mr Shapps could further open up crucial travel links between the UK and the US which have been on life support for months.

The Government continues to use its 'travel corridors' scheme to decide which countries have to be subject to self-isolation requirements. 

Travel from a 'safe' country on the corridor list is quarantine-free but travel from a country which is not on the list requires people to self-isolate for 14 days. 

However, the self-isolation period is set to be reduced as ministers roll out a long awaited 'test and release' system from December 15. 

That will enable travellers arriving in England to end their quarantine period with a negative coronavirus test after five days in self-isolation.  

Full list of travel corridors from where where no arrivals need to quarantine on return to the UK

Anguilla

Antigua and Barbuda

Aruba (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Australia

the Azores

Bahrain

Barbados

Bermuda

Bhutan (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Bonaire/St Eustatius/Saba (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

British Antarctic Territory

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Virgin Islands

Brunei

Cambodia

the Canary Islands

Cayman Islands

the Channel Islands

Chile

Cuba

Dominica

Falkland Islands

Faroe Islands

Federated States of Micronesia (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Fiji

Finland

Gibraltar

Greek islands: Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, Zakynthos

Greenland

Grenada

Hong Kong

Iceland

Ireland

the Isle of Man

Israel and Jerusalem (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate) (read about the UK position on Jerusalem)

Japan

Kiribati (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Laos

Macao (Macau)

Madeira

Malaysia

Maldives

Mauritius

Mongolia (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Montserrat

Namibia (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

New Caledonia

New Zealand

Northern Mariana Islands (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

Norway

Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands

Qatar

Rwanda (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

Samoa (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Seychelles

Singapore

Solomon Islands (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

South Korea

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

Sri Lanka (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

St Barthélemy

St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Pierre and Miquelon

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Taiwan

Thailand

Timor-Leste (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Tonga (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Turks and Caicos Islands

United Arab Emirates

Uruguay (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

US Virgin Islands (arrivals before 4am 21 November need to self-isolate)

Vanuatu (arrivals before 4am 28 November need to self-isolate)

Vietnam

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