Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is under fire for introducing a policy which allows “high value” business travellers returning to England to avoid quarantine.
The rules, which come in from Saturday at 4am will see individuals who meet prescribed business criteria – such as carrying out a trip to preserve or create at least 50 UK jobs – exempt from having to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Department for Transport (DfT) promised to issue further information when the rules come into force, but experts and politicians are already lambasting it.
Labour MPs have slammed the policy as “a joke” and “one rule for the rich and one for everyone else”.
Is this a joke? What Is high value? So the Government lets its rich mates in quarantine-free, while the rest of us trying to see our loved ones for Christmas have to quarantine for 5 days & then pay £150 for a test. #oneruleforrhem https://t.co/m6jJC955Lp
— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) December 3, 2020
60,000 dead and one of the worst economic impacts in the world.
It is truly staggering that this government’s priority is to make special rules for its rich mates.
History will remember how the @Conservatives let down everyone else. https://t.co/FsZW3R99fU
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) December 3, 2020
"High value" business travellers are going to be exempted from quarantine.
It really is one rule for the rich and another for everyone else with this government.
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) December 3, 2020
Labour MP David Lammy said the policy was “staggering” as it came amid the Covid death toll hitting 60,000 people in the UK.
Ben Bradshaw pointed out the inequality at ordinary travellers having to self isolate and then pay for a test to be released. If a traveller does not pay for a private test, which costs around £120, they have to fulfill the two week quarantine period.
What an absolute shower these people are. Maybe they think folk won’t feel so worried if they know they’ve caught COVID from a ‘high-value business traveller’. Dangerous fools. https://t.co/JLezLSj5HG
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) December 3, 2020
Coronavirus: imma get inside you and do my thang
Businessesman: wait, I am the VP of sales in a multinational, Fortune listed.
Corona: 500 or 100
Corona: my apologies Sir. https://t.co/rdlZQzcJTg
— Dr Philip Lee (@drphiliplee1) December 4, 2020
SNP Stewart McDonald branded Shapps and his department “an absolute shower” and “dangerous fools”, while MP Richard Burgon exclaimed: “Absolutely unbelievable. It really is one rule for the rich and another for everyone else with this government.”
Dr Philip Lee, who works in acute medicine for the elderly, mused how the virus is able to differentiate between those carrying out business or leisure travel.
One Twitter user simply replied to Shapps’s announcement with the words “how elitist.”
The policy is the latest in a series of confusing and often contradictory rules being enacted by a Tory government during the pandemic - including the decision to spare grouse shooting and hunting with guns from laws which prohibited groups of more than six people to congregate.
The DfT said sectors such as media and elite sport were also selected for exemption from quarantine as they “require specific, high-talent individuals who rely on international connections”.
New Business Traveller exemption: From 4am on Sat 5th Dec high-value business travellers💼will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to ENGLAND from a country NOT in a travel corridor, allowing more travel to support the economy and jobs. Conditions apply.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 3, 2020
High value business travellers. How elitist.
— Dan (@slowhands27) December 3, 2020
It added: “PHE (Public Health England) do not anticipate these changes will raise the risk of domestic transmission, due to the protocols being put in place around these exemptions, however all exemptions will remain under review.”
It also including sports stars, performing arts professionals, journalists and TV production staff.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “This is a welcome first step in dismantling the quarantine system and showing that Britain is open for business again.
“There will be some big businesses that are able to take advantage of it.”
No changing are being made this week to the travel corridors list, which states where anyone can return to the UK from without needing to enter quarantine.
The list features destinations deemed to have low levels of coronavirus.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.