Senior company executives and City of London dealmakers returning to England after business trips abroad will from Saturday be exempt from quarantining, the government has announced.
Overseas executives will also be among the “high-value business travellers” able to enter the country without self-isolating, under plans set out by transport secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday.
Other new categories of traveller excluded from the usual 14-day coronavirus quarantine include professionals in the performing arts, TV production staff, journalists and recently signed elite sportspeople.
The list of those exempt from the quarantine requirement was previously limited to only a handful of essential workers such as seasonal fruit pickers, the armed forces and technical staff working for utility companies.
That has been the cause of huge frustration for business groups, which have warned that the quarantine system has damaged the UK economy.
The business exemption would mean that executives from large companies — defined as more than 50 staff — would not need to quarantine or take a Covid-19 test if they were involved in high-value deals that delivered a “significant” economic return to the UK and boosted business investment.
Those eligible include senior executives of multinational companies visiting their subsidiaries in England and executives who have left the country on business and are returning for “specific activity” required for the company’s operations.
The exemption will also apply to foreign-based executives seeking to make a financial investment or place a contract in England.
The travel industry, which has been lobbying the government to loosen its quarantine requirements, welcomed the recent changes.
Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer at management company American Express Global Business Travel, said the move would “help business restart and drive trade and commerce”. But he added the government needed to clarify how people could prove they were on a business trip.
Gloria Guevara, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said the move would “provide a significant boost to the fragile UK economy”.
At present, people flying into England from most countries have to self-isolate for 14 days unless they are coming from a destination on the fluctuating “green list” of countries with low infection rates. That will change from December 15 when people will be able to isolate for just five days — if they then pay for a Covid-19 test that turns out to be negative — under a new “Test to Release” scheme.
Separately, the government floated plans last week under which any businesspeople visiting England for trips of up to three days could be exempt from the quarantine system.
A cross-departmental Global Travel Taskforce said in a report that the exemption could be introduced in early 2021, although the business visitors would be banned from socialising while in England.
The body, chaired by Mr Shapps and health secretary Matt Hancock, recommended a consultation with clinicians and industry to see if the policy would be practical and how it might be administered.
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