Oil and gas workers will be exempted from quarantine measures requiring travellers to isolate for 14 days after arriving in the UK.
Under new Home Office rules, anyone who arrives in the UK from June 8 will have to self-isolate for two weeks – failing to comply will result in a fine and risk prosecution.
Oil and gas workers along with HGV drivers, medical workers, fruit pickers and anyone moving within the common travel area, covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempted, however.
The announcement does not affect workers who routinely travel to and from platforms in the North Sea – many of whom are already operating on a restricted basis.
Industry body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK) welcomed the move.
OGUK health and safety director Trevor Stapleton said: “We welcome confirmation of exemption for our key workers and look forward to receiving further details from government.
“This is key to enabling our industry to continue to provide the energy and products needed by people and industries throughout the UK.”
Banff and Buchan Tory MP David Duguid also welcomed the move, saying: “I am in constant contact with the oil and gas industry and spoke again with sector representatives today.
“There are a small number of specialist critical roles that involve people coming into the country that may need special consideration. This does not affect workers who routinely travel to and from platforms in the North Sea – many of whom are already operating on a restricted basis.”
He added: “I will continue discussions with the Home Office about this.
“However, we must also remember that these measures are being introduced for a very good reason – to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”
The list of exempted workers has been subject to intense debate among ministers amid warnings that a blanket quarantine would risk further damage to the economy.
Talks were continuing last night on whether elite sportsmen and women such as Premier League footballers and Formula One drivers should eventually be included.
The Home Office said officials “worked closely with industry partners” ahead of announcing the changes and said the measures would be subject to review every three weeks in order to ensure they are in line with the latest scientific evidence.