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From June 8th 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers to the UK, including UK residents, must self-isolate for 14 days by law.

If you arrive in the UK on or after 8 June 2020, you will not be allowed to leave the place you’re staying for the first 14 days you’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’).

This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear.

Before you travel, you should provide your journey, contact details and the address where you will self-isolate. You will be able to complete the public health passenger locator form 48 hours before you arrive. You must present these details on your arrival in England.

You will need to do these things if you arrive on or after 8 June 2020. If you arrive before 8 June or have just arrived in the UK you should check the latest public health advice on coronavirus before you travel.

In England, if you do not self-isolate, you can be fined £1,000. If you do not provide an accurate contact detail declaration – or do not update your contact detail form in the limited circumstances where you need to move to another place to self-isolate – you can be fined up to £3,200.

Source: gov.uk

As far as I can tell, these measures were first announced by Boris Johnson on May 10th, in a daily COVID-19 briefing:

And to prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air.

And it is because of your efforts to get the R down and the number of infections down here, that this measure will now be effective.

I'm not entirely clear on the rationale here - surely quarantine measures on incoming travellers would be effective no matter the current rate of infection (R number) or the number of infections. Is there any further explanation from the Government or SAGE on why this policy has only been implemented now that the first peak of the disease in the UK has subsided?

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    I'm not sure I could find a source, but it does make sense that there would be no need for a separate quarantine on travellers while the whole population was effectively quarantined on lockdown anyway. – origimbo Jun 10 at 9:42
  • @origimbo that would make sense, but the quarantine now in place on travellers is far stricter than the measures which were in place on the general population at the height of lockdown - quarantined individuals can't leave their house for exercise, shopping, work where unable to work from home etc. – CDJB Jun 10 at 9:45
  • They can leave the house to buy essential supplies if no-one else can do it for them, at least according to the BBC bbc.co.uk/news/52963306 – origimbo Jun 10 at 9:51
  • And here's the same advice from a government website gov.uk/government/publications/… coupled with the long list of exemptions for international key workers, that doesn't make this much different from the early lockdown in most of the UK except for the exercise restrictions. – origimbo Jun 10 at 9:58
  • @origimbo I have actually linked that in the post - the exemptions are far tighter than the lockdown exemptions, more comparable to the restrictions on extremely vulnerable people shielding. – CDJB Jun 10 at 10:06
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And it is because of your efforts to get the R down and the number of infections down here, that this measure will now be effective.

Is there any further explanation from the Government or SAGE on why this policy has only been implemented now that the first peak of the disease in the UK has subsided?

The explanation offered at the daily briefings was that when the virus was spreading mainly by community contacts within the UK, the effect of a small number of airport arrivals bringing an even smaller number of infections was negligible compared to the numbers of infections occurring through community contacts. Now that the rate of new infections passed by community contacts is much lower, and more people are considering travel to the UK (or out and back), the relative proportions are sufficiently different that different measures are appropriate.


Or to put it in simpler form, but exaggerated for clarity

When 10000 infections a day arise from community transmission and 1 a day from airport arrivals, you should concentrate your efforts on community transmission

when 100 infections a day arise from community transmission and 10 a day from airport arrivals, efforts dealing with the latter can have a significant effect on the overall infection rate.

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