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Hotel quarantine to start on 15 February

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The government has come under attack for dragging its heels on the implementation of mandatory hotel quarantine stays for travellers from high risk countries.

The government announced on 27 January that arrivals into the UK from countries with known coronavirus variants, will be placed in quarantine in government-provided accommodation.

Hotels will be asked to provide rooms for more than 1,000 passengers a day. Passengers will have to stay in their rooms for 10 nights, with security guards accompanying if they go outside.

Travellers will have to pay for their stay in quarantine hotels. Regular coronavirus tests will be carried out during the quarantine period.

But last night ministers said hotel quarantine would not come into force for another 10 days in England as the government needed “time to prepare”.

There are now 32 so-called ‘red list’ countries with known coronavirus variants or high infection rates. There are fears that travellers from these destinations will rush back to the UK ahead of quarantine being introduced – potentially bringing different strains of Covid-19 with them.

MP James Cleverly faced questions about the delay on Sky News. He said that “hindsight is a wonderful thing”.

Cleverly said there is already an “existing suite of measures” at the border to try to stop the import of new variants, including the passenger locator form and mandatory isolation upon arrival for 10 days.

Other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, introduced hotel quarantine when the pandemic begun last March. Life is almost back to normal in Australia and New Zealand now, while the UK remains in lockdown.

In another media appearance, this time on Radio 4, Cleverly also floated the idea of a ‘vaccine passport’ which would allow Brits who’ve had the coronavirus vaccine to carry a document to prove they had been inoculated when travelling to other countries.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “It is beyond comprehension that these measures won’t even start until 15 February. We are in a race against time to protect our borders against new Covid strains. Yet hotel quarantine will come in to force more than 50 days after the South African strain was discovered.

“Even when these measures eventually begin, they will not go nowhere near far enough to be effective in preventing further variants. As ever with this government, it is too little, too late.”