The exemption only covers business activities and those applying for that status must meet strict criteria, the government says.
A quarantine exemption for top overseas executives “just takes the p***”, Labour’s deputy leader has said.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said senior overseas business people would no longer need to isolate when arriving in England if their trip is likely to be of “significant economic benefit to the UK”.
But the move was sharply criticised by Labour’s Angela Rayner, who tweeted: “Sorry for the unparliamentary language but this just takes the pi**.
“It is the lowest paid working people who have got our country through this crisis, risking their lives on the frontline.
“This is an offensive slap in the face for them and shows this government’s true colours.
“Yet again it is one rule for those at the top and another for everyone else.
“This makes a total mockery of the sacrifices of the British people during this pandemic and this double standard is an insult to frontline workers that the British people will rightly be disgusted by.”
The BEIS announcement means that, subject to meeting strict criteria, business leaders could “temporarily” leave mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for work activities only.
They would need written permission and would not qualify if their activities could be carried out by someone else, or remotely via phone or email.
Exemptions would also only cover those making a “financial investment in a UK-based business” or for “establishing a new business within the UK”.
Former England football star Gary Neville also criticised the move, tweeting: “That’s it . Do what you want everyone. It’s over …. We all bring value to the economy !”
BEIS said the ‘significant economic benefit’ test would only be met under certain conditions, such as the work having a greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs – in either a new business or existing one with at least 500 staff.
“This exemption is designed to enable activity that creates and preserves UK jobs and investment, while taking steps to ensure public health risks are minimised,” said BEIS.
It confirmed all rules governing COVID tests would remain and all public health rules would still apply, including the demand that a person must return to isolation between business activities.
It said: “Any individual who leaves self-isolation when required to self-isolate and who is not lawfully exempt from those requirements will be committing a criminal offence.”