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Business secretary defends 14-day virus quarantine plan as opposition grows

The Business secretary has defended the government’s planned 14-day quarantine for arrivals into the UK in the face of growing opposition, telling Sky News that a range of exemptions have already been made to help companies.

Alok Sharma said public health had to be the priority as the controversial measure prepares to kick in from 8 June, despite critics warning it will be unenforceable and damage recovery from the COVID-19 shock to the economy.

He was speaking hours after it emerged that more than 200 travel and hospitality businesses had now joined a campaign urging ministers to scrap the scheme.

Alok Sharma
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They endorsed a letter, sent to the Home Secretary Priti Patel last week by 75 bosses, which accused the government of a “poorly thought-out move” that would harm, in particular, a travel sector that is already cutting tens of thousands of jobs.

Firms which support the campaign include London hotels the Ritz and the Dorchester, travel firms Kuoni and Inghams, and chef Jason Atherton.

George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, who is leading it, said: “This is not just a group of company bosses complaining, but employees from bottom to top calling for the quarantine plans to be quashed.

“The extent of their pain is deeply worrying for our economy and our country.”

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People entering the UK from 8 June face a two-week isolation, with the threat of a £1,000 fine for those who breach the rules.

The restrictions are aimed at preventing a second peak of the disease being introduced by travellers.

The campaigners have called for so-called air bridges to be created which enable people to travel – without being quarantined – between countries where the risk of being infected by coronavirus is deemed to be low.

In his interview on Sky News, Mr Sharma said he was having conversations “every day” with businesses.

“They all recognise that we have to make sure that we are taking care of the health of the nation, and that ultimately is what will lead to preserving the health of the economy,” he said.

“I think what is right is to make sure we approach all of this in a really cautious way.

“There is going to be a three-week rolling review of the quarantine measures.”

Mr Sharma added: “There are a whole range of exemptions that have been published, and that includes for road hauliers, it includes for people who are coming to fix critical infrastructure, critical machinery, and that’s what businesses want to see.”

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