The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting businesses in a range of ways. From social distancing to supply chain disruption, the lockdown has posed significant challenges to firms on many fronts.
The Government's decision to impose a two-week quarantine on incoming visitors to England has proved a particularly controversial policy with the public and politicians alike. Hence, on Friday the Foreign Office announced changes to its approach and published a list of almost 60 'travel corridors' - countries that will be exempt from the 14-day self-isolation rules from the 10th of July.
In practice, the new arrangements mean that visitors do not need to self-isolate on arrival in England if the only places they have been to, or stopped in, during the previous 14 days are 'travel corridor' countries. Devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have yet to decide whether to follow England's example, while Northern Ireland will continue to quarantine travellers arriving from outside the UK and Ireland.
The announcement on 'travel corridors' was timely and came shortly after The Telegraph published the results of a new Institute of Directors member survey which suggested the quarantine policy is having a negative effect on businesses now and could limit the UK's chances of economic recovery. The IoD welcomes that the Government has listened to members' views, but we believe that there is more progress to be made. The full Policy Voice survey results are shared in this press release.
The survey, conducted between 12 and 29 June, reveals 86% of the 978 company directors surveyed believe the quarantine will have an adverse impact on the UK economy. Moreover, the results suggest the EU is the most important destination for business travel, with 71% of members advocating a preferential travel arrangement with the bloc. The second most important destination was North America, selected by 38%. The likes of the United States and Canada are not currently on England's 'travel corridors' list.
The quarantine has meant that many practical business activities are not feasible at this time. Directors responding to the survey cited visiting customers and suppliers, meeting investors and holding meetings as some examples of actions that cannot be fulfilled with the rules in place.
Notably, the impact of the 14-day quarantine period is not limited to companies that trade in services. Two-thirds (65%) of members in the manufacturing sector think the rules will have a negative effect on their business, compared with 49% of membership as a whole. One member noted that sending an engineer to complete a three-day assignment to work on manufacturing equipment could easily turn into a 31-day effort.
Commenting on the IoD figures, Allie Renison, the IoD's Head of EU and Trade Policy, said "While the government is striving to put public health first, there is widespread confusion across industry over reasons and timeline choices for these measures, the impact of which cuts across many different sectors.
"Our members are in particular deeply concerned about the effect of quarantine on the economy. Preferential arrangements with other countries can't come soon enough as part of the Government's recovery strategy.
"It should come as no surprise that the EU is by far and away the top priority for directors, but with other trade negotiations in play the government should take the opportunity to discuss mobility with other partners too".
The Transport Secretary has said in a statement that the next review of the travel rules will take place by 27 July. In the meantime, the Government recommends consulting FCO travel advice prior to booking any overseas trips.
The IoD will continue to lobby the Government to re-think its policy on quarantine. In the meantime, stay up-to-date on the latest news and guidance around COVID-19 by checking the IoD's Coronavirus Support Hub. If you are a member of the IoD and are interested making your voice heard, please sign-up to Policy Voice.