Travel stocks including that of British Airways parent IAG (IAG.L) and EasyJet (EZJ.L) were down Wednesday afternoon as the UK confirmed that arrivals from 22 countries will have to quarantine in hotels provided by the government. The travel industry, hit hard by the pandemic, has warned the move will have major implications for the UK economy.
Many of the countries on the list are South American nations, as well as South Africa and Portugal, “where there is a risk of known variants,” said prime minister Boris Johnson.
"In order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception,” he said.
The Department of Health is working to establish quarantine hotels "as fast as possible", he added.
The CEOs of major travel companies including BA, Virgin, EasyJet and TUI (TUI.L) said in an open letter to Johnson that they “have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels, is necessary”.
“What is clear is the dramatic impact that restrictions will continue to have both on UK airlines, and the wider UK economy. In the short term, an effective border closure risks impacting vital freight and PPE supplies, and jeopardising tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses up and down the country that depend on aviation.”
Meanwhile a Heathrow spokesperson told Yahoo Finance said the airport backs “any measures that protect public health and bring an end to this crisis, and will support the government to bring these new rules in.”
WATCH: UK announces enforced quarantine for arrivals from 22 countries
However, they pointed out that aviation will play a vital role in “delivering the government’s ambitions for Global Britain, levelling-up and a green recovery, but only if it survives – now we need 100% business rates relief, an extension to the furlough scheme and a roadmap to reopening borders safely.”
A spokesperson for Airport Operators Association said in a statement to Yahoo Finance that it welcomed the fact that the “new measures only apply to a limited number of countries. However, strict travel restrictions were only introduced recently, and it remains unclear what additional public health benefit mandatory hotel quarantine would have.”
They were referring to new measures under which everyone entering England from anywhere outside the country, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
In addition to this, proof of a negative coronavirus test is required to travel to England. This may be taken up to three days before your journey begins.
The spokesperson added that the Australian and New Zealand governments “have backed up their government-ordered aviation shutdowns with more than a billion dollars in combined aviation-specific support. It’s time the UK government backed their tough stance on border with similar financial support for the industry hit hardest by that stance.”
Last week, the UK added more countries to its flight ban list in a bid to control the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.
Many countries have placed curbs on travel from the UK in Europe and beyond.
A string of recent comments by ministers have dashed hopes Britain could bring down coronavirus infection rates and roll out vaccines fast enough to ease restrictions from March.