In addition, plans set out by transport secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday, Dec. 3, also identified overseas businessmen as "high-value business travelers" who will not be required to self-isolate when they enter the country.
"Individuals undertaking specific business activity which would deliver a significant benefit to the UK economy – including activity that creates or preserves 50+ UK jobs – will no longer need to self-isolate when [traveling] or returning from non-exempt countries," states the announcement on the Department of Transport's website. "Individuals will only be exempt when undertaking the specific business activity and will only be able to meet with others as required by that specific activity."
The plans also outline other categories of travelers excluded from the usual 14-day Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine. These include journalists, professionals in the performing arts, TV production staff and recently signed elite athletes.
Prior to Shapps new plans, the list of those exempt from the quarantine requirements was limited to only a handful of essential workers such as servicemen and women, seasonal fruit pickers and technical staff working for utility companies.
These limits cause frustration among U.K. business groups who warned that the quarantine system had damaged the British economy.
With the new rules, executives from large companies – defined as those with more than 50 staff – will no longer need to quarantine nor take COVID-19 tests if they are involved in high-value deals that boost business investment and deliver "significant" economic return to the U.K.
The list of eligible people includes senior executives of multinational companies visiting their subsidiaries in England. It also includes executives who have left the country on business and are returning for a "specific activity" required for the company's operations.
Foreign-based executives seeking to make a financial investment or place a contract in England will also be covered by the exemption.
The move for business executives to enter England without the need to quarantine has been praised by those in the travel industry.
World Travel & Tourism Council president Gloria Guevarra said the move would "provide a significant boost to the fragile UK economy." Meanwhile, Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer at management company American Express Global Business Travel, said that it would "help business restart and drive trade and commerce."
But Crawley also raised some concerns about it. He said that the government needed to clarify how people could prove that they were on a business trip.
The exemption for business travelers isn't the only change that's coming to how the U.K. handles travel during the quarantine. Starting on Dec. 15, the country will implement a new "Test and Release" scheme.
Under this new scheme, travelers will be able to isolate for just five days. All they would need to do is to pay for a COVID-19 test that turns out to be negative.
In addition, the government recently floated plans last week where any business people visiting England for trips of up to three days could be exempt from the quarantine system.
In a report, the U.K.'s cross-departmental Global Travel Taskforce stated that such an exemption could be introduced in early 2021. That said, business visitors entering under this scheme would still be banned from socializing while in the country. (Related: "If lockdown were a drug, it wouldn't be approved," says UK medical researcher – lockdowns do more harm than good.)
The body, which is chaired by Shapps and health secretary Matt Hancock, recommended consultations with doctors and the healthcare industry to see if such a scheme would be practical and how it could be implemented.
Follow Pandemic.news for more on how the coronavirus is affecting global travel.