Senior overseas business executives will no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England if their trip is likely to be of “significant economic benefit to the UK”.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that, subject to business leaders meeting strict criteria, they could “temporarily” leave mandatory COVID-19 isolation for work activities only.

They would need written permission, the statement added, warning that an executive 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 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.

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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.”