Ministers have been accused of ‘taking the pi**’ and turning UK residents into ‘second-class citizens in their own country’ after it emerged that high-flying business executives can dodge Covid quarantine on arrival in Britain if their trip is of ‘significant economic benefit’.Â
Twitter users slammedÂ Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to allow businessmen arriving from amber list countries to ‘temporarily’ leave their 10-day mandatory quarantine period for work activities related to their trip, while they missed weddings and funerals due to restrictions.Â
MPs of all stripes lined up to criticise the ‘absurd and bizarre’ foreign travel rules, which came into force at 4am yesterday and will onlyÂ apply to executives whose work has a greater than 50 per cent chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs for a new or existing business.
Meanwhile, travel industry experts furiously denounced the Government’s ‘piecemeal approach’ to reopening the devastated sector as they warned that further delays to mass easing of curbs will hold back the recovery of the UK economy and create a jobs bloodbath.Â Â
Speaking to MailOnline, Mark Littlewood, director-general at the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, said that the Department for Transport’s move ‘will pave the way for further exemptions, making a mockery of the restrictions and leading to accusations of cronyism’.
He added:Â ‘Whitehall bureaucrats have a poor track record of picking winners and losers. Are they really best placed to judge which business trips may or may not deliver investment or jobs in the future? Ministers will have a hard time convincing us it’s not one rule for the rich and another for everyone else.Â Â
‘Tinkering with lockdown rules is further evidence of the need to repeal them as soon as possible – and certainly no later than July 19.’Â
It follows a row over executives from football bodies Uefa and Fifa being allowed to skip self-isolation requirements to attend games, enter Downing Street and even socialise with ministers. It also follows widespread charges of ‘hypocrisy’ after disgraced ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock was caught flouting social distancing measures he imposed with his mistress.Â
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the new policy in the House of Commons
New rules brought in yesterday mean business executives arriving into the UK can leave self-isolation if their work will have a significant economic benefit to the UK, sparking a row
British holidaymakers with trips booked to Malta have seen their plans thrown into chaos after the country announced it is not accepting the NHS app as proof of vaccination
Holidays to Malta in chaos as island officials REFUSE to accept NHS app as proof of both jabs and insist on seeing printed government letter ‘that takes five days to arrive’ at airport insteadÂ
British holidaymakers with trips booked to Malta have seen their plans thrown into chaos after the country announced it is not accepting the NHS app as proof of vaccination.
From Wednesday, travellers from the UK aged 12 and above are only permitted to enter Malta if they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
But authorities in the central Mediterranean archipelago revealed on Monday that they will only accept printed letters sent by the NHS as proof.
That means tourists planning to use the NHS app to demonstrate their status face being turned away at UK airports or the border in Malta, even if they are fully vaccinated.
To request an NHS vaccine letter, you have to fill out a form online, which you can only do two weeks after your second jab.
The UK Government’s website states that letters then take ‘up to five working days’ to be delivered.
Reacting to the latest rules, Henry Smith, Tory chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation, told MailOnline: ‘I welcome any kind of safe reopening in order to rescue our economy and save as many jobs as possible. But I think the measures are extremely modest and are not going to make much difference to the travel sector, which has been devastated for the past year and more.
‘If it’s good enough for a small number of executives to be able to dodge quarantine, then that shows it’s safe enough to open up much more widely, particularly when that means reopening our economy and building back from the pandemic.’Â Â
Former Tory international trade secretary Liam Fox previously warned that the Government’s foreign travel policy was making UK residents ‘second-class citizens in our own country’.Â
Dr Steven Freudmann, former President of ABTA – The Travel Association, told MailOnline: ‘I agree with Mr Fox, it is one rule for the wealthy businessman and another for the rest of us. Let’s face it, the wealthy can always present a case for economic benefit being attached to any visit.
‘I don’t imagine for one minute that there will be any public transparency in the decision-making process. So whilst the summer holiday hopes of millions of UK citizens have been dashed, wealthy businessmen will be able to dodge quarantine with the Government’s blessing.Â
‘The Government delayed 21 days before adding India to its red list in the hope of securing a trade deal. We know the outcome. It seems that potential trade deals trump the health of the nation.’Â
Also speaking to MailOnline today, travel expert Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said: ‘With the vaccine roll-out success and the highly positive data showing the huge impact on hospitalisations, now is the time for the government to remove all remaining restrictions on all visitors to the UK.
‘While it’s encouraging to see the Government enable more business people to enter the UK without quarantine, we need to see urgently this being widened to everyone who has been fully jabbed, whether they be British travellers or overseas businessmen.
‘The travel industry is so tired of this piecemeal approach which has been adopted by the Government and is continuing to hold back the sector. It’s time for ministers to abandon the last of the lockdown and allow the industry to begin to recover.’Â
An ABTA spokesman said: ‘While this is a step forward, the roles and activities involved are limited, and this will not be not be sufficient to bring about a meaningful recovery in business travel. It is also important to consider that all types of travel, including people travelling for leisure and holidays, help to underpin the UK’s international connectivity.
‘Business travel is complemented by the large volume of leisure passengers, with the entire mix of passengers essential to make routes financially viable.Â
‘As such, the Government needs to urgently look at opening up travel for the wider population – by adding more countries to the Green list and allowing those who have had both vaccinations to travel to amber list countries without the need to quarantine on return.
‘This needs to happen in the next few weeks so that travel businesses can salvage something from this summer season, without this businesses and jobs are at risk, as well as the UK’s connectivity.’Â
Critical MPs said the policy meant there was ‘one rule for the super rich and another rule for the rest of us’.Â
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: ‘Sorry for the unparliamentary language but this just takes the pi**.Â It is the lowest paid working people who have got our country through this crisis, risking their lives on the frontline.
‘This is an offensive slap in the face for them and shows this government’s true colours. Yet again it is one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else. This makes a total mockery of the sacrifices of the British people during this pandemic and this double standard is an insult to frontline workers that the British people will rightly be disgusted by.’
To request an NHS vaccine letter, you have to fill out a form online, which you can only do two weeks after your second jab. The UK Government’s website states that letters then take ‘up to five working days’ to be delivered
Twitter users slammed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to allow businessmen arriving from amber list countries to ‘temporarily’ leave their 10-day mandatory quarantine period for work activities related to their trip, while they missed weddings and funerals due to restrictions
Labour’s transport spokesman Jim McMahon, said: ‘We can’t have one rule for senior executives and another for everyone else, so the data behind this decision must be published urgently, especially as the Conservatives have failed to protect our borders against the Delta [Indian] variant.
‘We have always said there is a need for some limited exemptions for workers and have repeatedly called on the Government to publish the criteria behind these. The best way to support the UK’s economy is to get a grip on the new variant, roll out the vaccine and support businesses in struggling sectors hardest hit by the roadmap delay – including the aviation sector.’Â
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the new policy during an urgent question tabled in the Commons by Labour.
Former transport minister Stephen Hammond called on Mr Shapps to expand the policy to include more businesses rather than just ‘jet-setting’ executives.
He said he ‘welcomed’ the move, but that it was ‘restricted to a very small number of basically jet-flying, jet-setting, multinational executives’.
Mr Shapps said he would consider widening who would qualify, but rejected Scottish National Party MP Stephen Flynn’s accusation that the Government was creating ‘one rule for the super rich and another rule for the rest of us’.
It will also be restricted to those making a ‘financial investment in a UK-based business’ or those ‘establishing a new business within the UK’.
Arrivals under the scheme would still have to take the two post-arrival PCR tests required to be taken on days two and eight after arriving from an amber country. It will not apply to red list country travellers, for which all arrivals must quarantine at hotels for 11 nights upon landing.
If an executive is caught leaving quarantine for any other reason than their work, they face a fine of Â£10,000.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Protecting public health is the Government’s number one priority, which is why exemptions to quarantine from amber list countries will only apply in truly exceptional circumstances.
Many other countries have introduced similar exemptions and it is important the UK does not lose out on prospective major investments and new jobs as a result.
‘Individuals will only be able to use an exemption if they have clearly demonstrated that they meet the strict criteria and have received pre-approval in writing from the UK Government.’