The UK Government (PM Boris Johnson) announced that travelers arriving back to the UK from “Red Zone” designated countries will have to undergo mandatory hotel quarantine at their own cost and policies are currently being worked out.
There will also be an increased police presence at airports to probe travelers about their travel reasons and possibly impose a fine in case they can’t provide valid grounds for traveling based on a declaration.
Ten days ago the UK already scrapped the Travel Corridors that were introduced for summer travel in 2020 tomorrow at 4 AM (read more here) when all arrivals to the country require a negative Covid-19 test combined with a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Now Sky News among other media reports that the government will expand their safety protocol and impose supervised quarantine and airport control measures.
UK nationals and residents returning from 30 “red list” countries will be placed in quarantine in government-provided accommodation – such as hotels – for 10 days, Boris Johnson has told MPs.
Mr Johnson reiterated that, under England’s national lockdown, it is currently “illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes”.
He said the government would “enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel”.
And, announcing the new hotel quarantine requirements, Mr Johnson told MPs the government had already banned travel from countries “where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations”.
“In order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception,” he added.
Mr Johnson said the Department of Health and Social Care was working to establish quarantine facilities “as quickly as possible”.
The 30 countries on the “red list” include all those in South America, as well as large parts of Southern Africa and Portugal. …
[Home Secretary] Ms Patel also reinforced the message that “going on holiday is not a valid reason” to ignore the current stay at home order.
“We will introduce a new requirement so that people wishing to travel must first make a declaration as to why they need to travel,” she told MPs. …
So far the UK approach has been based on more or less of an honor system, relying on people respecting the set parameters and self isolating where required.
The same goes for the Stay at Home Order, people still pretty much went about their daily business. Now or in the near future there will be police patrolling the airport and probably spot check travelers to probe them about their travel reasons. Not sure if that means a fix checkpoint similar to passport control or just random police force strolling through the terminal. We shall see!
A declaration isn’t much of a barrier if people are hell bent on traveling and come up with a reason such as a family emergency. It’ll be very hard to disprove certain reasons people could declare.
Preparations for the quarantine facilities are apparently underway as well. This poses a challenge for all parties involved. The government has to find owners and operators willing to take such risky occupants, the hotels might face problems not only with their insurance but also unions and employees who are employed as hospitality workers and not medical staff to work in a hazardous environment. Travelers themselves are then presented with a hefty hotel bill for a 10 day stay.
Rules will become stricter and more thoroughly enforced in the UK probably starting as soon as next week. Passengers should be prepared to provide a statutory declaration about their travel and also expect to be forced into a costly quarantine upon return. The list of countries classified as Red Zones can very well be expanded at any time.
The new strains of the Covid-19 virus with a higher infection rate are causing havoc in various regions of the world. So far the UK had a very good success fast tracking their national immunization program, by far more successful than other countries. The numbers of infections and deaths however speak a more dire language and only time can tell how effective the vaccines will be against the known and possible new C-19 virus variants.