Quarantine policy needs more transparency and testing, says Blair think tank


More transparency and testing is required to limit the harmful impacts of the Government’s quarantine policy for international arrivals, according to Tony Blair’s think tank.

A study carried out by the former prime minister’s institute urged ministers to publish the criteria used for deciding whether travellers from certain countries are exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement.

Many travellers were angered by the recent decision to reimpose the self-isolation requirement for people arriving from Spain, as the announcement was made just five hours before the change in policy came into force.

The Government uses data from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) to help with its assessments.

The Tony Blair Institute recommended that the JBC launches a website showing the criteria for quarantine decisions and how countries around the world are performing against it.

Its report called on the Government to:

– Introduce a traffic light system to highlight which destinations could soon be removed from the quarantine-free list.

– Allow people to leave quarantine if they are tested negative for a coronavirus test taken five days after arriving in the UK.

– Secure reciprocal agreements with other countries to allow travellers to be tested either on departure or arrival.

Ryan Wain, strategic adviser at the Tony Blair Institute, said quarantine measures risk “grinding the (travel) industry to a halt”.

He went on: “This doesn’t have to be the case.

“Testing after five days of arrival can reduce quarantine periods in the UK and abroad, while a traffic-light system indicating a country’s ‘Covid status’ would provide welcome foresight for travellers planning their trips.

“Ultimately, this is about learning to live with Covid-19 and wherever possible Government should adopt measures that protect public health but allow some level of normality.

“In the absence of a wonder drug or a game-changing vaccine, mass testing is absolutely critical to this.”

Quarantine “makes a dent on mental well being” and “comes at a huge cost to employers in terms of lost productivity and to employees in lost wages”, according to the report.

The study described communication on the issue as “opaque and haphazard”.

Aside from new announcements, ministers “should not routinely be communicating on this issue to avoid unnecessarily disrupting the stock market and travel plans”, the report authors said.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We keep our approach to border measures under regular review to ensure that they remain effective and practical.

“Data on all countries and territories is closely monitored so that decisions can be taken rapidly to help stop the spread of the disease.”