Tory minister denies government is planning to exempt city bankers from quarantine rules

·3 min read
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis speaking to the media as he arrives at BBC Broadcasting House in central London before his appearance on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor/PA Images via Getty Images)
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis speaking to the media on Sunday. (Getty)

A Tory minister has denied that city financiers will be exempt from quarantine restrictions when travelling abroad under plans allegedly being drawn up by the government.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis was asked about reports in The Sunday Times suggesting hedge fund managers and company bosses would not be required to self-isolate when conducting meetings overseas.

The scheme is reportedly being planned to “promote global Britain” and would apply to senior bankers, hedge fund managers and executives involved in high-value deals.

Currently only a handful of workers are given quarantine exemptions including members of the armed forces and hauliers.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Travellers exit Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 on August 22, 2020 in London, England. As of Saturday morning at 4am, travellers arriving in England from Austria, Croatia, and Trinidad and Tobago were required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. At the same time, travellers from Portugal were no longer required to quarantine. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)
Travellers wearing masks arrive at Heathrow. (Getty)

Lewis confirmed the government is considering reducing the length of self-isolation periods but said any changes to the system “will apply to everybody”.

Asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme whether the report about exemptions for bankers was true, Lewis replied: “No, no it’s not. Any changes that are made will apply to everybody.

“Obviously there are things we have done through the virus like getting testing out to frontline NHS workers first which were scientifically-led.

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“But when we look at things like that, if there are any changes of that type they will apply to everybody.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Lewis confirmed the government was looking into changing the quarantine rules but said the new system would try to get the “balance right” so that people could return to as “close to a normal life as we can”.

“We are looking at the moment at what we can do around those isolation periods which is scientifically-led,” he said.

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“We are learning more about the virus every single day. This is still a relatively new virus in terms of disease and as we learn we can look at whether we’re able to reassess that.

“We are not able to make a final decision or announcement on that yet but we want to make sure we are moving with the science and indeed allowing people to live and work within this virus as best as we can whilst always making sure we protect people’s health and the NHS.”

Officials on the government's Covid-19 taskforce are understood to be examining the case for reducing the current fortnight period of isolation to between 10 days and a week.

The move, which would not apply to those who test positive for the disease, comes amid growing dissatisfaction with the performance of the system from ministers and MPs.

Whitehall officials are said to be concerned about the levels of public compliance with the quarantine and Test and Trace system.

There are also said to be concerns that the prospect of a lengthy period indoors if they are contacted by Test and Trace is deterring people from co-operating.

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