The UK Government announced its formalised Hotel Quarantine plan, along with some very big sticks to control importing of new variants of COVID-19.
Travelling from a country on the travel ban list? Budget £1750 extra.
The new measures build on those already in place, which include refusing entry to non-UK residents from ‘red list’ countries. All passengers, no matter which country they have travelled from, are already required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 3 days before departure and must self-isolate on arrival. A passenger locator form must also be completed with fines for those who fail to comply.
From Monday, anyone arriving who has been in a country on the UK’s travel ban list in the previous 10 days will be required to purchase a quarantine package. Bookings will be made through a dedicated online portal and will include:
- assigned government transportation
- food and drinks
- accommodation in a government-approved facility
The charge for a single adult will be less than £1,750.
At the time of writing, the travel ban list is as follow:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Major hubs mentioned include Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham as “designated arrival ports”. These airports account for the vast majority of international arrivals into England and will allow for close monitoring.
Anyone arriving at a non-designated port who has visited a ‘red list’ country will receive a fixed penalty notice and still be required to quarantine in a managed quarantine facility. Government has so far contracted 16 hotels with 4,600 rooms and more will be secured as needed.
There will be a security presence throughout, with personnel directing travellers on arrival, in transit and on arrival at the managed quarantine facilities. Security will also be present to ensure passengers remain at their facility and, where necessary, police will be called upon to provide additional support.
More Testing required for arrivals
All arrivals – be they staying at quarantine hotels, or staying at home (arriving at English ports) will be required to undertake 2 mandatory COVID-19 tests – on day 2 and day 8 of their 10-day quarantine.
Comply, or face penalties
Now we get to the stick – and the government is finally not messing around to ensure compliance. Fines are the order of the day, and will be issued and will range from £5,000 rising to £10,000 for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
A £1,000 penalty will also be given to any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, followed by a £2,000 penalty to any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test. This will be accompanied by an automatic extension of the quarantine period to 14 days.
The Passenger locator forms will be updated, which will now not only detail their travel journey but also their quarantine and testing package. Anyone attempting to conceal that they have travelled in a ‘red list’ country on their form could face a £10,000 fine or prosecution and up to 10 years in prison.
How will compliance be sought?
The compliance and enforcement regime is end-to-end, and all passengers should expect to be checked at various points throughout their journey, such as:
- by carriers at the time of departure
- by airport staff throughout their journey
- by Border Force officers on arrival
- spot checks by police, where appropriate, for those quarantining at home
What if I’m coming back from a country that’s not on the travel ban list?
If you’re travelling back to England from countries, not on the travel ban list, you will be required to quarantine at home for the same period (10 days) and abide by the same stringent testing regime.
In both cases, tests must be booked from a list of government-approved test providers. Test to Release will continue to be in operation – however, arrivals will still be required to purchase the 2-testing package.
Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary said:
Our fight against this virus has many fronts and, just as we’re attacking this virus through our vaccination programme, which is protecting more people every day, we’re strengthening our defences through these vital measures so we can protect the progress that we’ve worked so hard to accomplish.
It’s going to be a change – but no “normality” in sight
With the new system going into effect from the 15th February, it’s going impact people hard who are trying to return to the UK who are travelling from Red List countries – with them having to fork out another £1750 on top of their airfare and any other testing fees completed before they set off.
And with the big sticks, the government is proposing to use in terms of fines and possible jail sentences, they have taken a tough line.
A bit too late some might argue.
However, as for the travel industry, there will be nerves – summer is at risk. With airlines and the travel industry not in the best of states after almost of a year of declining revenue (bar a small blip in the summer), they will be looking for a way of drumming up business.
So far, nothing is coming, or certain.
Editors note: I meant to write this last night – I had an awful nights sleep.
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