Britain has said that it will bring in tighter border controls from Monday February 15 to help guard against new variants of COVID-19, requiring hotel quarantine in England for those arriving from the highest risk countries.
"We're setting up a new system of hotel quarantine for UK and Irish residents who have been in red list countries in the last ten days," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Arrivals will have to quarantine in assigned hotels which they will book before departure and pay £1,750 per traveller. Security will be present at the hotels..
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The government said it has contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms and that it will secure more as they are needed.
Penalties For Breaking Quarantine Rules
Travellers arriving in England face fines and even prison if they flout rules as part of the hotel quarantine policy designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 variants from the most at-risk countries, Hancock said.
"We will be putting in place tough fines for people who don't comply. This includes a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test," Hancock told parliament. "Anyone who lies on the passenger locator form and tries to conceal that they've been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival here will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years."
Hancock said that the UK's travel measures could stay in place until the government can be sure that vaccines work against new variants of the coronavirus, or booster shots have been given later this year.
Asked how long new border measures will be in place, Hancock said that more information is needed on the success of the vaccines.
"And if that isn't forthcoming, we will need to vaccinate with a further booster jab in the autumn, on which we are working with the vaccine industry. These are the uncertainties within which we are operating," he said.
Transport Minister Says UK Residents Should Not Book Holidays
Meanwhile, transport minister Grant Shapps has said that British people should not book a holiday domestically or abroad until more is known about the success of Britain's COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Addressing the "shrinking chance" that anyone was considering booking a holiday, Shapps said that it would be the wrong thing to do so as going on holiday is illegal under current restrictions.
"Until you know the route out of lockdown, which we can't know until we have more data, more information on vaccines, please don't go ahead and book holidays for something which, at this stage, is illegal to actually go and do, whether it's here or abroad," he told BBC Radio.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce a plan on February 22 for easing the lockdown.
Shapps said that it is too soon to know what that will mean for the summer holiday period.
Shapps said that between 16,000 and 20,000 people are arriving in Britain each day, including hauliers.
After the hotel quarantine requirement comes into force on February 15, Shapps expects a decrease of arrivals from countries such as South Africa and Brazil where new variants of the virus have been detected.