26 Jan Quarantine hotel plans set to be announced
Some travellers coming to England will have to quarantine in hotels, over concerns about new Covid variants, the government is expected to announce.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a decision after discussing the proposals with senior ministers later.
The measures are likely to apply to UK citizens and those with permanent residency rights arriving from high-risk countries such as South Africa.
Most foreign nationals from high-risk countries already face UK travel bans.
The requirement to isolate in a hotel for 10 days will apply to arrivals from most of Southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal, because many flights from Brazil come via Lisbon.
Whitehall sources said those quarantining in hotels would have to pay for the costs of their own accommodation.
It comes after the UK on Monday recorded another 592 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the total by that measure to 98,531.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Covid operations committee attended by senior ministers tonight to discuss the options.
However, it will not be possible to implement any new measures immediately, said BBC political correspondent Iain Watson.
Some ministers – including Home Secretary Priti Patel – have been pushing for more widespread use of hotel quarantine, arguing that too targeted an approach may prove ineffective, our correspondent reports.
Hotel quarantine is already in use in countries including New Zealand and Australia.
Under current travel curbs, almost all people must test negative for Covid-19 up to 72 hours before they set off to be allowed into the UK.
Even after this negative test, arrivals still have to quarantine for up to 10 days, although this can be done at home.
In England, this self-isolation period can be cut short with a second negative test after five days.
Quarantine rules are set separately in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – but have only tended to differ slightly.
On Monday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed officials around the UK had discussed a “four nations” approach to the issue.
She added that hotel quarantine was “under active consideration” by Scottish ministers and would be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The Northern Ireland Executive is also expected to discuss travel rules when it meets on Tuesday.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, which represents the interests of the tourism sector, said he hoped hotel quarantine rules would cover as few countries as possible.
He told the BBC’s Newsnight the industry had been “decimated” and the new measures were “the last thing we need”.
“We’ve got to start thinking once these conditions are put in then how are we going to wind our way back from that? he added.
In a joint statement, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK said the country already had “some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world” and tougher rules would be “catastrophic”.
Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western Hotels, said the decision would be a “big blow for tourism”. But with thousands of hotel rooms standing empty already, he said: “We understand it’s crisis and we all need to do our bit.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme hotels already had experience of Covid infection control as many had been used to host “step-down” patients, who complete their recovery in hotels to free up hospital beds.
Each person quarantining would have to be treated as though they were Covid-positive, with three meals delivered outside their door and clean sheets and towels also left outside, he said.
On Monday, Mr Johnson said the UK already had “one of the tightest regimes in the world” but the government wanted to “protect this country from reinfection from abroad” and the spread of new variants during the rollout of vaccines.
The policy is among the measures credited with limiting cases of coronavirus in Australia – whose population is around 25 million – to just 28,777 positive cases during the entire pandemic.
This is a smaller number of new cases than are currently recorded in the UK every day – with a daily average of over 33,000 in the past seven days.
Ministers have been facing pressure to toughen up the UK’s borders in recent weeks, with Labour accusing ministers of “dragging their feet”. Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has backed the idea of using hotels to help “prevent the importation of further strains of the virus”.
Quarantine hotel plans set to be announced