LONDON: Anyone travelling to the UK from a high-risk COVID-19 country, including South Africa and South America where new variants have been a concern, will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for a period of 10 days from February 15, the UK government confirmed on Friday.
The policy had been announced last month and the government said it has been working "at pace" with the hospitality industry to invite proposals for the measure, to cost travellers around 80 pounds per night.
The rules affect UK residents and Irish nationals travelling from 33 countries on the so-called “red list” – which covers much of South America, southern Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal as feared regions for new coronavirus mutations. Non-UK travellers from these locations are currently banned from entry anyway.
India is not on this list of high-risk countries but a limited travel regime has been in operation within the India-UK corridor since a new highly transmissible variant, called the Kent variant after the south-east England region where it was first discovered, at the end of last year.
It is expected that the enhanced measure will add to the already existing tough restrictions, with only essential travel allowed and fines in place for a breach of the rules under the lockdown rules to keep coronavirus infection rates down.
“It is currently illegal to go on holiday, and passengers travelling to the UK must provide proof of a negative test before they travel, and self-isolate on arrival. With increased police presence at airports and more physical checks at addresses to make sure people are self-isolating, we are taking decisive action,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
“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 new variants, it is important that the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives,” the spokesperson said.
Over the past week, the DHSC said it has met with stakeholders from across the aviation, maritime, hotel and hospitality industry, and will now continue to finalise plans to enable implementation from February 15.
It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock to oversee cross-government efforts through a Cabinet sub-committee to deliver mandatory quarantine and enhanced testing to help tackle the threats of new variants of COVID-19.
Hancock has held discussions with his Australian counterpart on Thursday, and officials will speak with New Zealand officials to share expertise on the new hotel quarantine measure.