Virus quarantine plans discussed as UK MPs return to Parliament

LONDON (AFP) – British MPs return to parliament yesterday as the virtual system introduced during the coronavirus lockdown ends, with controversial quarantine plans up for discussion.

MPs have attended the House of Commons either physically or by video call since late April but the government announced last month that business would now be conducted in person.

One of the first topics for debate was the government plans to force those entering Britain from abroad to quarantine for 14 days.

But reports suggested ministers were looking to soften the approach following criticism from business leaders, particularly in the aviation sector.

Most people arriving by plane, ferry or train, including British nationals, must self-isolate from June 8 under plans that will be reviewed every three weeks.

A man stands with his bike on the south bank of the River Thames, against the backdrop of the Houses of Parliament, in London. PHOTO: AP

The BBC said however that ministers were looking for more exemptions for those travelling from countries with low infection rates and for certain types of workers.

Lorry drivers, police officers, seasonal farm workers, and healthcare professionals are already exempt, as are those travelling from Ireland.

Police in England will be allowed to carry out random spot checks and issue GBP1,000 fines for those found breaking the rules.

A group of firms were among those demanding so-called “air bridges” to low-risk countries.

Airlines including EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic said they had “serious reservations” about a “blanket approach”.

On parliamentary procedure, many MPs are unhappy about the termination of the virtual system, arguing that MPs classed as vulnerable due to age or health would miss out.