'Taking the p***': Boris Johnson criticised for ‘massive, open-ended’ COVID travel exemptions for VIPs

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Embargoed to 0001 Saturday June 26 File photo dated 22/08/20 of passengers in the arrivals hall at Heathrow Airport, London. Almost 2,500 people who arrived in the UK and tested positive for coronavirus over the course of three months could not be properly traced because they gave authorities the incorrect contact information. Issue date: Saturday June 26, 2021.
The government has revealed exemptions to self-isolating travel rules. (PA)

Boris Johnson has been criticised for handing “massive, open-ended” COVID travel exemptions to overseas VIPs.

On Monday, the government released a list of people who are exempt from self-isolating when they arrive from abroad as part of its latest travel review, including top corporate bosses and football fans arriving from amber countries for the Euro 2020 final.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the new rules were "taking the p***."

She said on Twitter: "It is the lowest paid working people who have got our country through this crisis, risking their lives on the frontline. This is an offensive slap in the face for them and shows this government's true colours.

"Yet again it is one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else. 

"This makes a total mockery of the sacrifices of the British people during this pandemic and this double standard is an insult to frontline workers that the British people will rightly be disgusted by."

Watch: Government minister defends 60,000 capacity Wembley test event

The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham also criticised the policy.

He tweeted: "Wrong move at the wrong time. It can’t be one rule for the rich and another for the rest."

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner called the Euro 2020 exemption “massive” and “open-ended”, adding that Downing Street will likely have no control over who is coming into the country without self-isolating.

Read: Sajid Javid says no chance of another lockdown as COVID deaths up 65% in a week

The new guidance says a person can attend the final after being invited by the football associations of one of the two countries whose teams are competing.

Unless they are coming from a red list country, these football fans will not have to self-isolate if they have a ticket and travel directly to and from the stadium to the airport for the game.

Those arriving from red list countries will still have to self-isolate, it is understood.

General view of the ground prior to kick-off during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group D match at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Tuesday June 22, 2021.
The Euro 2020 final will take place at Wembley Stadium in London on 11 July. (PA)

Top corporate bosses visiting from overseas will also be allowed to ditch the self-isolating requirement if they’re arriving from an amber list country.

The guidance says the exemption applies to "senior executives" who come to the UK with a "reasonable belief that the activity will more likely than not lead to the creation or continuation of employment for 500 employees or more in the UK".

They can also arrive without self-isolating if the activity "will deliver significant economic benefit to the UK”.

The guidance was criticised by Wagner, who said that unless one of the teams in the final is England, football fans from two different countries on the amber list could be arriving without having to self-isolate.

He said: “Basically, this is a massive, open-ended exception to self-isolation requirement for attendees at Euro 2020 final which UK government likely has no control over as you only need to be invited by the football association of one of the finalists.”

Watch: Government accused of 'sowing confusion' over travel rules

The government has faced repeated criticism for over its border policies during the pandemic.

Labour’s transport spokesman Jim McMahon criticised the traffic light system on Tuesday morning.

He told Sky News: "It’s a bad idea. I think the public believe it is a bad idea because it causes more and more confusion when people want simplicity."

Downing Street defended the quarantine exemption for business chiefs following criticism from senior Labour figures.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Protecting public health is our number one priority and that’s why those exemptions will only apply in truly exceptional circumstances.

“Many other countries have introduced similar exemptions and it’s important the UK public don’t lose out on prospective major investments and new jobs as a result of that.”

In early June, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy called the system “confusing and dangerous”.

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: "We think the amber list should be scrapped. We think it's pointless. We think it's confusing and that confusion is actually dangerous at the moment.

"It risks unravelling all of the progress that we've made."

Boris Johnson has defended the traffic light system on a cumber of occasions, insisting the UK has “one of the strongest border regimes in the world”.

Watch: Ryanair sees red over UK's traffic light system for travel rules

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