Travellers arriving in the UK from Covid-19 hotspots abroad will have to quarantine in a hotel from 15 February, the government has confirmed.
People who have visited a country on the travel ban “red list” will be required to self-isolate for 10 days in approved accommodation to ensure they follow the rules.
Who has to quarantine?
The quarantine rules will apply to UK nationals and residents returning to the country from 33 “red list” high-risk destinations, where Covid-19 variants have been detected in large numbers of people.
Passengers will be expected to pay for the cost of their accommodation and will have to stay in their hotel rooms for 10 nights, with security guards to accompany them if they go outside.
The four UK nations have agreed that people arriving from high-risk countries on a “red list” will have to quarantine in hotels, but Scotland plans to introduce a more “comprehensive” approach to “managed quarantine”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government intends to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of where they have come from.
Further details on how and when the quarantine changes will come into effect are still yet to be confirmed.
The full list of countries which require travellers to quarantine is as follows:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Where will the hotels be?
The quarantine hotels are expected to be set up close to airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was working “at pace” to roll out the managed quarantine facilities.
A DHSC spokesman said they had been in discussions with representatives of the aviation maritime, hotel and hospitality industries, and were continuing to finalise their plans in the run-up to 15 February.
The spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic, the government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, and that has led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.
“We are now working at pace to secure the facilities we need to roll out managed quarantine for British nationals returning home from the most high-risk countries, and are rightly engaging with representatives from the hospitality, maritime and aviation industry, and learning from our friends around the world.
“In the face of the new variants, it is important that the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect and save lives.”
‘Too little, too late’
The announcement of the quarantine hotel start date comes following criticism from Labour, which called the measures “too little, too late” to properly deal with new overseas strains of Covid-19.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the government had been far too slow to act and said the UK is in a “race against time” to protect its borders.
He said: “It is beyond comprehension that these measures won’t even start until February 15.
“We are in a race against time to protect our borders against new Covid strains. Yet hotel quarantine will come into force more than 50 days after the South African strain was discovered.
“Even when these measures eventually begin, they will not go anywhere near far enough to be effective in preventing further variants. As ever with this government, it is too little, too late.”
The Best Western hotel chain’s chief executive Rob Paterson also criticised the plans, stating that the industry had been “kept in the dark” by ministers over their plans.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I think in any normal company, if you went out and announced a programme nationally, and you hadn’t thought about how you were going to plan that, and you hadn’t spoken to the people involved, I’m not sure I’d have a job if I did that in my company.
“To this day we simply haven’t heard anything despite multiple offers.”
The DHSC said a commercial specification was issued on Thursday (4 February) evening to hotels near air and sea ports asking for proposals on how they can support the delivery of quarantine facilities ahead of formal contracts being awarded.
Further details are due to be set out next week on how passengers will be able to book into the designated hotels.