All Clap and No Trousers: Is The 14-day Quarantine For UK Arrivals Just For Show?


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

A 14-day quarantine period for UK arrivals would have made sense two months ago, now it’s too little too late. But then again, meaningless symbolism is all the rage in Britain these days.

With Priti Patel, playground bully turned grown-up by the same magic as the kid from Big, having just announced a 14-day obliatory quarnatine for anyone arriving into the UK from abroad, government policy seems to be arriving with a longer delay than a Ryanair flight from Shannon* to Stansted.

*Owing to the CTA agreement, arrivals from the Republic of Ireland will be exempt from the measures, leading County Sligo residents to enter full blackout to avoid Connell-from-Normal-People-besotted Brits from decending onto the Atlantic Coast, hoping they might catch yet another glimpse of the socially-awkward heartthrob’s willy.

Despite this government operating a somehow vote-winning policy of not doing anything which makes any sense, it’s tempting to celebrate its decision to finally ask that anyone arriving in the UK provide an address at which they will self-isolate for 14 days. You’ll also pay a fine to the tune of £1,000 for leaving the house, and while some are asking how it will be policed, they are underestimating their snoopy neighbours. About time. Aotearoa New Zealand did this weeks ago, but that was obviously too early, it’s not like it’s helped them near-eradicate the virus or anything.

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An empty check in hall at Auckland Airport in Aotearoa New Zealand, where arrivals have had to self-isolate for months.

Not so fast… Now, obviously, airlines aren’t happy with the new restrictions. But then, a slightly over-sized bag sends them into full panic mode, so that’s not really a surprise. Perhaps more interesting is the government advisor who told The Guardian that the plan simply ‘doesn’t make sense’ this far down the timeline. Now the government is back on brand, they had me worried for a moment. The reason? Such measures only make sense for arrivals from countries where the rate of infection is higher than that in the UK. A London professor of immunology told the same newspaper that given our current rate of infection, the plans are unlikely to make any difference. Now, it’s obviously sensible that we ban arrivals from the US until at least 2050. But, what’s the point in stopping someone from Australia visiting the UK (if they dare), when there’s so little chance they are carrying the disease?

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An information screen at Dubai International Airport in the UAE reminds passengers to maintain social distancing.

In short, we should have done this ages ago. And doing it now seems pretty pointless. At least they’ve got rid of the inexplicable exemption on arrivals from France, that was weird. Now, I don’t want to suggest that the government shouldn’t go ahead with these new measures. Anything that keeps us all safe is worth doing. What is also worth doing, however, is pointing out that this government is incompetent beyond measure. They’re not even publishing the scientific advice which led to the 14-day isolation policy until after it has been implemented.

The bottom line is this: our government let millions of people from COVID-hotspot countries and regions enter the UK without the requirement to isolate, and is now offering the sticking plaster of a 2 month late policy. It all seems too much like offering care workers a heartwarming clap as a remedy to years of chronic underfunding. For Boris et al, it is, if anything, on brand.


Sociolinguistics student and cat advocate

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