Throughout the entire pandemic, much of the criticism of world governments and organisations has been the perceived “one rule for them, another rule for us”.
Most recently, the UK Government’s travel restrictions have been the subject of much controversy, with visceral opposition from the transport, travel and tourism industries for the lack of advance warning.
They have also criticised strict rules on quarantining, isolation and denied entry for those travelling to and from places on the Red and Amber Lists.
Currently on the Amber List is the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy and it just so happens that they are the other six of the G7 Group of Nations.
Together with the UK, they form the seven biggest global economies excluding China, India and Russia. Crucially, they are all relatively liberal mostly-Westernised democracies so as a bloc they hold great power.
With the UK’s Covid cases rising, the Delta variant trebling its numbers in a week, some have criticised the holding of a large in-person meeting requiring thousands of accompanying security personnel, diplomatic support staff and international businesspeople.
Cornwall, where the G7 summit is being held, has had much better Covid figures compared to London. Back when the regional system was used it initially was the only part of the country to be put into Tier 1 when London was in Tier 3 before being bumped into an exceptional Tier 4.
Cornwall is hosting the G7 because each year, one of the seven countries acts as host and organises an event in their territory. It’s the UK’s turn this year following the US’s last year.
The leaders of the G7 and much of their accompanying delegations have not been required to self-isolate or quarantine to attend the summit.
This is in contrast to almost everyone else travelling to from the same original locations. That’s because there are specific exemptions for international diplomatic conferences in the government’s Red and Amber List rules.
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The gov.uk website explains that diplomatic staff for conferences such as the G7 don’t even have to fill out the Passenger Locator Form, test themselves after arrival or isolate.
If they come from a Red List country, they must quarantine where they stay – they are not forced into the government facilities like the controversial hotels requisitioned near Heathrow. No G7 country is Red at the moment, although India who is invited as a guest is meaning isolation is enforced. They must also take a a test before coming to the UK from any country.
All of the leaders flew on private flights to Cornwall in restricted airspace, which has the added benefit of reducing contact.
The leaders would likely benefit from diplomatic immunity anyway, even if they knowingly broke the rules. Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron as Heads of State would be virtually guaranteed freedom from prosecution as Heads of State.
These relaxed measures are on the basis that the work being carried out at diplomatic conferences is essential. Last year’s G20 summit in Saudi Arabia was held entirely virtually, with access to host city Riyadh being extremely restricted to non-Saudis.
There have already been reports of Covid clusters amongst security forces at the event. Twelve police officers staying on a ferry nearby to the summit main location are now self-isolating because two of their colleagues tested positive for coronavirus. There was also a scare amongst delegates.
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There are over 40 different job types which qualify for various exemptions. Some of them avoid their jobs being completely impracticable such as Eurostar and aircraft cabin crew.
If it wasn’t for these exemptions, a round-trip from the capital to Paris would take each staff member up to 17 days instead of the four to five hours it usually takes them. The exemptions are one of the few things helping the transport industry survive.
The full legal status of the exemptions is outlined in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021.
Do you think the exemptions are fair? Would you have held the summit in-person like the PM? Tell us in the comments below!