Two-week quarantines to be imposed on new arrivals to the UK are necessary to reduce the risk of importing Covid-19 cases, the Prime Minister said.
Boris Johnson defended the decision to impose the 14-day period of self-isolation on new entrants to Britain, saying it could help to prevent a “second peak” of coronavirus.
Addressing the daily Downing Street briefing, he said the policy wasn’t necessary until now because when the first wave of the pandemic exploded in the UK, cases from abroad “made up a tiny proportion of the total”.
The PM also said the UK Government will look at whether “travel corridors” could be established with countries with low rates of Covid-19.
The UK currently has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Europe.
Explaining the lack of a quarantine policy previously, Johnson said: “Once community transmission was widespread within the UK, cases from abroad made up a tiny proportion of the total.
“At the same time you will remember international travel plummeted as countries around the world went into lockdown.
“As a result measures at the border were halted because they made little difference at the time in our fight against the virus.
“Now that we’re getting the virus under control in the UK, there is a risk that cases from abroad begin once again to make up a greater proportion of overall cases.
“We therefore need to take steps now to manage that risk of these imported cases triggering a second peak.”
From June 8, passengers coming into Britain will have to fill in a form providing their contact and travel information so they can be traced if infections arise.
They could be contacted regularly during the 14 days and face random checks from public health authorities to ensure their compliance.
While fines of £1000 could be imposed on those who break quarantine in England, the Scottish Government and other devolved nations will be able to set their own punishments.
Border Force will be able to refuse entry to foreign citizens who are not UK residents while removal from the country could be used as a last resort.
Anyone arriving by air, sea or rail will be advised to use personal transport to head to their accommodation and once there not leave for 14 days.
They will not be allowed to accept visitors, unless they are providing essential support, and should not go out to buy food or other essentials “where they can rely on others”, according to Home Office advice.
Johnson said the UK Government “will explore the possibility” of “travel corridors” with countries with low rates of coronavirus.
The PM told the briefing: “We will review how the policy’s working after three weeks and of course we will explore the possibility of international travel corridors with countries that have low rates of infectio.
“But only when the evidence shows it is safe to do so.”
The mandatory self-isolation policy will not apply to people coming from Ireland, medics tackling Covid-19 and seasonal agricultural workers.