We returned from lockdown in Spain on 20th March, flying into Cardiff airport, where there were piles of leaflets urging us to quarantine for 14 days. Although Italy is listed, the leaflets did not include Spain, but we took the message at face value, and self isolated for 14 days in accordance with the spirit of the NHS request.
These leaflets could have easily been re-issued to include arrivals to the UK from all countries over the last 10 weeks since UK lockdown, and a large proportion of people would have complied voluntarily as we did.
The government’s plan to implement quarantine arrangements on 8th June appears to be a shambles, with little chance of enforcing compliance. The UK has a higher infection rate than most of European countries by a long way, although there are a few countries with higher rates worldwide.
A Conservative rebellion is brewing over plans to impose a fortnight of quarantine on people arriving in the UK, with fines of up to £1,000 for those who roam without permission. There are doubts about the viability and purpose of the proposal. Sceptics ask why such a system was not in operation months ago, when the threat of people importing the coronavirus was higher. Enforcement will be piecemeal, with only a fraction of those in quarantine receiving follow-up calls to verify obedience. Workers in a number of sectors will be exempt.
The stated reason for the quarantine regime now is to avoid a resurgence of the virus, while the stated reason for not enforcing one earlier is that it would not have made a substantial difference to the trajectory of the epidemic. There is a contradiction there. While infection from overseas is a hazard worth managing, not much about the government’s handling of the disease so far gives confidence that clinical rigour is paramount.
Evidence is mounting that Britain’s handling of Covid-19 is among the worst in the world, the government goes to ever greater lengths to demonstrate vigour in its response, with the performance of action taking precedence over achievement.