Quarantine hotels are being set up in the UK, it has been announced. From Monday 15th February, arrivals from the countries on the UK government’s 'red list' - currently numbering 33 - will face mandatory hotel quarantine for 10 days, costing each traveller £1,750 (€1,992 )
The aim is to limit the spread of new variants of coronavirus.
Travellers will face hefty fines and prison time if they do not comply with new rules, announced by the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Hotel quarantines have been used in Asia and Australasia since last March. The UK government said it had sought advice from Australia and New Zealand on implementing hotel quarantines.
These new rules are in addition to the rule introduced on 18th January for all UK arrivals to present a negative COVID test performed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.
This is a huge step up from previous UK travel restrictions, widely considered to be some of the weakest in Europe. Hancock says he makes “no apologies” for the strength of the strictest rules yet.
What are the new UK restrictions?
Arrivals from 33 'high risk' countries will be taken directly from the airport to designated quarantine hotels. These will be available to book from 11th February.
These arrivals will have to pay for a quarantine package costing £1,750 (€1,992 ). This will include the hotel, transport and testing, and can be booked through an online system, to be launched later this week.
During this time they will have to take a PCR test on days two and eight of the ten day quarantine period. It is likely that those who get positive tests will have to quarantine for longer, but the details on this have yet to be announced.
Those that fail to take the first test will be fined £1,000 (€1,138), with a further £2,000 (€2,277) added if the second is not taken. This will culminate in total charges of £10,000 (€11,388) if the fixed penalty notices go unpaid after 14 days.
Any person found to be concealing their travel from a red listed country, or lying on their declaration forms, will face a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
More information on travelling to the UK can be found here.
Which countries are on the red list?
Flights to the UK from these destinations are already suspended and the only arrivals permitted from them are British and Irish nationals or those with UK residence rights. This means the new hotel quarantine rules will, in practice, only apply to British and Irish nationals or residents.
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- French Guiana
- South Africa
When might the hotel quarantine rule end?
The government will not give a definite date. One rumour suggests that the government has a prospective end date of 31 March 2021.
What does this mean for the travel industry?
A spokesperson for the travel trade association, ABTA, said: “The introduction of quarantine hotels for ‘red list countries’ builds on a mountain of existing measures for travel, and we need to see a clear plan for how these will be lifted.
"Jobs are being lost at an alarming rate and longstanding businesses have gone to the wall. The lack of financial support targeted at addressing the consequences for businesses of international travel restrictions needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Here is Matt Hancock's statement in full:
“We’re setting up a new system of hotel quarantine for UK and Irish residents who’ve been in red list countries in the last 10 days. In short, this means that any returning residents from these countries will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of arrival.
“Before they travel, they’ll have to book through an online platform and pay for a quarantine package costing 1,750 for an individual travelling alone which includes the hotel, transport and testing. This booking system will go live on Thursday when we’ll also publish the full detailed guidance.
“Passengers will only be able to enter the UK through a small number of ports that currently account for the vast majority of passenger arrivals. When they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer if they test positive for Covid-19 during their stay.
“We’ve contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms and we will secure more as they are needed. People will need to remain in their rooms and of course will not be allowed to mix with other guests and there will be visible security in place to ensure compliance alongside necessary support, so even as we protect public health we can look after the people in our care.”
Regarding how arrivals will be tested, he said: “We’re strengthening testing. All passengers are already required to take a pre-departure test and cannot travel to this country if [the test] is positive.
“From Monday, all international arrivals, whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight of that quarantine.
Passengers will have to book these tests through our online booking portal before they travel. Anyone planning to travel to the UK from Monday needs to book these tests and the online portal will go live on Thursday.
“If either of these post-arrival tests comes back positive, they’ll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test and will of course be offered any NHS treatment that’s necessary. Any positive test will automatically undergo genomic sequencing to confirm whether they have a variant of concern”.
“People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.
“Passenger carriers will have a duty in law to make sure that passengers have signed up for these new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t, and we will be putting in place tough fines for people who don’t comply.
“This includes a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days, and a £5,000 fixed penalty notice - rising to £10,000 - for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
“Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival here will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
“I make no apologies for the strength of these measures because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation”.