The UK government has outlined new rules regarding travel, which include hotel quarantine, strengthened testing and “tough fines” to enforce the measures.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced the new rules in the House of Commons today, and stated that “we must strengthen our defences further”. The new measures will come into force on February 15.
UK and Irish residents entering England from the 33 “red list” countries in the past ten days will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room. It means that before they travel, they must purchase a quarantine package priced at £1,750 per person, which includes the hotel, transport and testing costs. The booking system is set to go live on February 11.
Hancock told the Commons:
“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.”
Travellers will have to remain in their rooms and will be forbidden from mixing with other guests. The government has contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms but states that it is working on finding more. Hancock added that he will commit to keeping the list of “red list” countries up to date.
With regards to testing, all international arrivals will have to take a PCR test on day two and day eight of quarantine. Passengers will be able to book these tests on the aforementioned online portal before travel. If they test positive, they will have to quarantine for a further ten days from the date of the test. Additionally, the positive tests will undergo genomic sequencing to “confirm whether they have a variant of concern”.
Hancock also lay emphasis on the enforcement of such rules, stating that he makes “no apologies” for the introduction of “tough fines” for those who do not comply with the quarantine measures.
From February 15, a £1,000 fine will be given to any international traveller who does not take a PCR test. This will increase to £2,000 for those who do not take a second test and the individual may have to extend their quarantine period to 14 days.
Meanwhile, there are fines of between £5,000 and £10,000 levelled at arrivals from “red list” countries who do not quarantine in a designated hotel.
Those who provide false information on the passenger locator form and try to conceal that they have been in a “red list” country will face up to ten years in prison.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, commented on the news:
“The BTA recognises the need to prioritise public health at this critical stage in our fight against Covid-19. Today’s announcement of details around quarantine hotels and increased testing will bring business travel to a standstill, preventing thousands from doing their jobs.
“The Health Secretary recognised the work of ports across England but has singularly failed to see the impact of these decisions on their supply chain. The Government’s latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country.
“It is critical that the Government finally looks to the future. It must offer targeted support to our industry and lead the way in agreeing International Standards of entry. We risk being cut-off from the world if we do not start mapping out the route to safe travel from this latest lowest point.”