Watch: Senior Execs can opt out of quarantine
Boris Johnson’s Government faced claims of creating “one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else” after announcing that some foreign tycoons will no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England.
Business leaders will be spared the burden of quarantine if their trip is likely to be of significant economic benefit to the UK.
Company executives wishing to travel to England to make a “financial investment in a UK-based business” or for “establishing a new business within the UK” will be exempt but they will need written permission first.
The Department for Business said: “This exemption is designed to enable activity that creates and preserves UK jobs and investment, while taking steps to ensure public health risks are minimised.”
But the Government added that business leaders will not qualify for an exemption if the activities can be carried out remotely via telephone or email, or by another person.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said the announcement “takes the piss” and is offensive to lower-paid workers who face having to quarantine when travelling.
“Significant economic benefit” is considered to be having a greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs, or creating a new UK business within two years, the new guidance added.
Business leaders visiting England will need to take a Covid-19 test, take further tests on arrival, and tell the Government they intend to use the exemption, before getting a letter of confirmation.
Bosses hoping to use the loophole to attend a routine board meeting will be disappointed, although a meeting to make a decision on whether to invest in a new UK division could be accepted.
When not working in England on business matters, those executives will need to continue to self-isolate, the guidance added, and must conduct meetings in a Covid-secure way.
It said: “Any individual who leaves self-isolation when required to self-isolate and who is not lawfully exempt from those requirements will be committing a criminal offence.”
Business leaders have been primarily carrying out activities remotely during much of the pandemic.
But airlines have been pushing hard for restrictions to ease because sales of business-class and first-class seats – which generate the biggest profits – have plunged as companies adopt remote working.
Ms Rayner said: “It is the lowest-paid working people who have got our country through this crisis, risking their lives on the front line.
“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.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said it is the “wrong move at the wrong time”.
“It can’t be one rule for the rich and another for the rest,” the Labour mayor added.
But Downing Street insisted the measure is necessary to prevent vital investment being lost to rival economies.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Protecting public health is our number one priority and that’s why those exemptions will only apply in truly exceptional circumstances.
“Many other countries have introduced similar exemptions and it’s important the UK public don’t lose out on prospective major investments and new jobs as a result of that.”
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