Enforced quarantine measures at the UK border expected to be unveiled this week are to cover arrivals by sea, car and international rail, as well as air, the Guardian understands.
The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, in his address to the nation on 10 May announcing the gradual easing of lockdown measures, served notice that quarantine would be imposed on air passengers arriving in the country.
The plans, which are still being drawn up and are expected to be announced within days, are set to extend to all arrivals into the UK with a number of exemptions, reportedly including hauliers and Covid-19 research scientists.
Ministers have suggested travellers will be asked to quarantine for 14 days when they enter the UK, either in accommodation of their choice or provided by the government if there are no other options. An implementation date has not yet been announced.
The scientific rationale for such a move has been called into question, prompting increased calls to publish the advice provided to the government by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the team of advisers informing the response to the crisis.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, told the Guardian: “It appears to be all politics and no science.”
Speaking to the Guardian last week on condition of anonymity, a senior government adviser said: “There was really no scientific advice to inform the latest announcement. It also doesn’t really make sense for countries which have lower per capita current Covid case numbers than us; for example, most of the EU.
“That sort of policy only reduces risk in the situation where we have very low case numbers and origin countries have much higher numbers.”
The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, suggested on Monday the rules would be enforced by law. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We would look at the relevant enforcement mechanisms just as we have done with other measures.”
Britain’s aviation and tourism industries warned that the quarantine plan risked worsening the economic impact of Covid-19. Michael O’Leary, the outspoken chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, on Monday said the proposals were “idiotic and it’s unimplementable”.
Air travel is down 99% year on year, maritime passengers are down 88.7% and international rail travellers 94%. Eurostar is down to one service to Paris and Brussels a day for essential travel.
There has been mounting criticism of UK border controls in the run-up to the crisis. It emerged that 18.1 million people had arrived in the UK by land, sea and air between 1 January and 23 March and only 273 had been formally quarantined.