The UK government is expected to announce that travellers coming from high-risk countries to England could soon be legally required to quarantine in hotels, amid concerns about importing variants of Covid-19.
Quarantining in hotels will apply to arrivals from South Africa, South America, and Portugal. While applying the measure for arrivals from other parts of the world is apparently “still a live issue” according to BBC Newsnight.
The Prime Minister is expected to make a decision tonight after discussing a proposal from senior ministers. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are understood to be two of the prominent figures pushing for the mandatory quarantine in government approved accommodations.
Foreign nationals from these high-risk countries are already denied entry into the UK, so the new rules are expected to mainly affect returning UK nationals and citizens.
Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland all decide their own quarantine rules, though the details are mostly uniform, and it is understood both the Scottish and NI governments are discussing implementing a similar measure to England.
At present, all arrivals into the UK have to display a negative test for Covid-19 conducted 72 hours prior to their flight. They then have to quarantine for 10 days, but this can be done at home. The quarantine period can be reduced to five days in England if an individual tests negative for a second time.
Whitehall sources say those quarantining in hotels would have to pay accommodation costs themselves.
Hotel quarantine is already operational in other parts of the world with 14 days self-isolation at a hotel in Australia costing £1,692 per adult. There, travellers are allocated a hotel room on arrival and transported by bus. Entire flights are often quarantined in the same hotel.
Not following the rules in New South Wales is a criminal offence and fines of around £6,000 are implemented for individuals who break the rules while six-month prison sentences can also be imposed.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said he hoped quarantine rules in the UK would cover as few countries as possible. The Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK said the country had “some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world” and argued tougher rules would be “catastrophic”.
Boris Johnson agrees the UK already has “one of the toughest regimes in the world” but the says government needs to “protect this country from reinfection from abroad” and the spread of new variants.
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