England Has Narrow Quarantine Exemption for Business Travelers – The New York Times

  • by

The British government introduced a new exemption to its quarantine rules on Tuesday for business travelers “bringing significant economic benefit” to England, but the move is unlikely to quell frustrations that certain travel routes in and out of Britain remain effectively shut.

The exemption has strict criteria and applies only to executives whose work supports at least 500 British jobs. It is much tighter than one that was in place for about six weeks from early December, when travelers needed to support only 50 jobs in Britain.

There has been a growing concern that Britain’s strict travel rules could lead the country to miss out on business opportunities as other countries welcome the return of travelers, especially from the United States. Since Britain left the European Union, it is also particularly anxious about not losing lucrative business activity to its neighbors across the English Channel.

Parts of Britain, such as the financial and legal district of the City of London, rely heavily on the presence of large multinational corporations. But most people entering the country either must quarantine for 10 days and take coronavirus tests on the second and eighth days or must pay for an additional test to end their self-isolation after five days.

Earlier this month, France reopened its borders to vaccinated American tourists, and last week, Germany said all Americans could enter the country.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, met with President Emmanuel Macron of France this week in Paris and opened up a new European Union trading hub on Tuesday. The bank is increasing the number of staff in Paris to 700 by the end of the year, up from 265 before Britain left the European Union. But Mr. Dimon won’t be stopping in Britain, where the company has 19,000 employees and offices in four cities, as he has in past trips to Europe, because of the country’s travel restrictions.

Any executives hoping to leave quarantine will have to meet strict requirements, including proving that the work being done in England “has a greater than 50 percent chance of creating or preserving at least 500 U.K.-based jobs” at a company that already has at least 500 employees or at a new British business. Executives have to apply to the government and get written approval, which can take up to five days, before traveling. When the executive isn’t doing business activity, they must self-isolate at all other times, the government said.

For more than a year, only a handful of flights each day have operated between New York and London, which used to be one of the world’s busiest travel routes. There are even fewer direct flights from London to other major American cities.

The issue of limited flights between New York and London has been raised several times a day, said Emanuel Adam, the executive director in London of BritishAmerican Business, which represents some trans-Atlantic companies.

“It’s frustrating to many businesses and scary because they don’t know yet what it will mean down the line,” he said.

At the same time, businesses are conscious of the health concerns raised by the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in Britain, he said. And now, restrictions against Britons are tightening; this week, Hong Kong barred all travelers from Britain.

In March 2020, President Donald J. Trump banned nearly all non-Americans traveling from Britain, and President Biden has kept the rule in place. There was a small breakthrough at the Group of 7 meetings in Britain earlier this month when the two sides agreed to set up a working group to restart international travel, but likelihood of an agreement for travel to return before the fall is reportedly getting slimmer.

“Many other countries have introduced similar exemptions, and it is important the U.K. does not lose out on prospective major investments and new jobs as a result,” a government representative said in a statement.