Boris Johnson’s administration faced claims of creating “one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else” after announcing that some foreign tycoons would no longer need to be quarantined upon arrival in England .
Business leaders will be relieved of the quarantine burden if their trip is expected to be of significant economic benefit to the UK.
Company executives wishing to travel to England to “make a financial investment in a UK based company” or “start a new UK business” are exempted but will need written authorization first.
The Commerce Department said: “This exemption is intended to allow activities that create and maintain UK jobs and investment, while at the same time taking steps to ensure that public health risks are minimized.”
However, the government added that business leaders are not eligible for an exemption if the activities can be carried out remotely by phone, email, or by someone else.
Labor labor group vice-chair Angela Rayner said the announcement was “insulting” and insulting poorly paid workers who have to be quarantined while traveling.
“Significant economic benefit” is more than a 50% chance of creating or maintaining at least 500 UK jobs or starting a new UK business within two years, the new guidelines state.
Business leaders visiting England are required to take a Covid-19 test, take additional tests upon arrival and inform the government that they wish to benefit from the exemption before receiving a letter of confirmation.
Bosses hoping to use the loophole to attend a routine board meeting will be disappointed, although a meeting to decide whether to invest in a new UK division could be accepted.
If they are not working on business matters in England, these executives must continue to self-isolate, the guidance says, and hold meetings in a Covid-safe manner.
It says: “Any person who leaves self-isolation when they are obliged to self-isolate and who is not legally exempt from these requirements commits a criminal offense.”
Business leaders have mostly carried out remote activities during much of the pandemic.
However, airlines are pushing hard for restrictions to be relaxed as sales of business and first-class seats – which are making the biggest profits – have plummeted as companies adopt remote working.
Ms. Rayner said, “It is the worst paid workers who have got our country through this crisis and are risking their lives on the front lines.
“This is an insulting slap in the face for them and shows the real face of this government.
“Once again it’s one rule for the front runners and another for everyone else.
“This completely mocks the victims of the British people during this pandemic, and this double standard is an insult to the frontline workers that the British people will rightly be disgusted with.”
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said it was “the wrong move at the wrong time”.
“It cannot be one rule for the rich and another for the rest,” added the Labor Mayor.
However, Downing Street insisted the move was necessary to avoid losing critical investments to competing economies.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The protection of public health is our top priority and therefore these exemptions will only apply in really exceptional cases.
“Many other countries have introduced similar exemptions and it is important that the UK public does not lose potential large-scale investments and new jobs as a result.”