UK travel restrictions: what options are being considered and where else have they worked?
Nine months after Britain’s first lockdown, we seem not to have come any closer to freedom. Despite the ongoing introduction of a vaccine, the UK is now facing a near-complete border closure as the government prepares to introduce tough new travel restrictions to protect the nation from “unidentified new variants” of Covid-19. Talks continue, but it is becoming increasingly likely that all overseas visitors, including the returning British, will be in hotel quarantine for ten days. A policy with no clear end date that would remove holidays from the cards for the foreseeable future. There are other options on the table, including quarantine only for arrivals from high-risk countries and stricter prosecution of those who are allowed to self-isolate at the address they choose. Here we take a look at the possibilities, their implications, and what other nations have successfully or otherwise adopted them. Total border closure As early as March 2020, Boris Johnson was delayed in restricting travel and imposing a national ban compared to other European countries. In fact, the UK border was never completely closed. This year, the government is considering a very different approach to close the gates almost completely to prevent new, potentially more dangerous, variants of the virus from sneaking in. Closing the border would require a global repatriation process for Britons stranded overseas, similar to the Foreign Office’s £ 75 million operations in the first lockdown to rescue around 300,000 people. At the start of the outbreak last year, Australia and New Zealand adopted border closures. The borders of both countries have been largely closed to visitors from overseas since March 2020 in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. A limited number of residents and their families are allowed to return each week. Tens of thousands of their citizens remain stranded overseas as a result. They will have to pay more than £ 1,600 to be placed in hotel quarantine in case they want to return. This seems to be a policy with no end in sight. Last week, Australian Health Minister Brendan Murphy said free-flowing travel to and from the country is not expected to resume in 2021. “I think we will spend most of this year with still significant border restrictions,” he told the public broadcaster ABC. “Even if a large part of the population is vaccinated, we don’t know if this will prevent the virus from being transmitted. And it is likely that the quarantine will continue for some time.” Did it work? For the time being, both nations have as good as conquered the spread of Covid-19 within their borders. New Zealand has only registered 1,927 confirmed cases and 25 deaths from the virus. However, yesterday it recorded its first new community case in more than two months. Australia has now reported 28,000 infections and 909 deaths and currently only has 123 active cases. Today announced the eighth day in a row without new Covid infections. However, it would be very late in the game if Britain followed suit at this point, and as The Telegraph’s Matthew Lynn argues, what may have worked for Australia and New Zealand will not work for us, given the very different nature of our economies; Not least because we are so dependent on the export of goods and services.