The boss of Europe’s biggest budget airline has criticised the UK’s new quarantine policy as “stupid” and “ineffective”.
Travellers arriving at UK airports, ferry ports and international rail terminals will be required to self-isolate at home for two weeks, with the threat of fines up to £1,000 for people who break the rules.
Speaking on BBC Radio’s Today programme, Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary said: “The problem with the UK government is: they’ve been late to every party.
“Now they’re introducing a quarantine which is purely a political stunt because it’s not a quarantine. It has no medical effect.
“When internationals arrive today, you’re going to wave them off on the London Underground, the Gatwick Express, the Heathrow Express, where a positive Covid arrival can infect many thousands of British people.”
Arriving travellers are asked to travel “directly” to their self-isolation location, but can stay somewhere overnight along the way if necessary.
“Even if you do fill in the form on arrival today, all you give is your mobile phone number.
“You could be in Sainsbury’s, you could be on the beach or you could be on a golf course, in the unlikely event that anyone from the Home Office actually calls you this week.
“What it’s going to do is untold devastation, not just to the airlines but to British tourism – the thousands of hotels, visitors attractions, restaurants – in the next couple of months.”
Ryanair plans to resume operations at scale on 1 July.
Mr O’Leary said: “We are seeing thousands of British families booking their two-week holiday because they themselves accept they won’t be affected by the quarantine when they return home.
“The flights are full out of the UK. British people are ignoring this quarantine. They know it’s rubbish.”
“The UK’s the sick man of Europe here.”
On the same programme, the policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “There may well be the need for police enforcement” of the self-isolation rules.
“We hope and believe these quarantine regulations will be observed.”
The law is in effect for a year, though it will be reviewed every three weeks.
Mr Malthouse said: “There’s no desire from the government to prolong this longer than we need.
“There is work ongoing to look at this idea of air bridges to see where we can allow freer travel.”
Air bridges or “travel corridors” agreed with the main tourism destinations would neutralise quarantine and allow inbound and outbound tourism.
“As we get on top of this awful virus and as our infection numbers drop very significantly, it’s very important that we don’t take any risks about re-introducing new infection from overseas,” he said.
“We want to maintain a clear set of rules for people arriving in the country from wherever they come from.
“It’s clear from the science that when you have a low infection rate it’s even more important that you don’t take the risk of reintroducing it.”
Mr Malthouse declined to specify the scientific evidence behind the quarantine plan.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company, IAG, said: “We need to send a message out to the world that the UK is getting back to business.
“This is sending the opposite message, that the UK is closed.”
BA is launching a legal challenge to quarantine, alongside easyJet and Ryanair.
In a Twitter poll conducted on behalf of The Independent, with 3,868 self-selecting respondents, the vote was 73 per against quarantine.
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