Travellers face £1,750 bill for quarantine hotels
Passengers face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail.
UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries will be required to spend 10 days in a Government-designated hotel.
The Scottish Government said this approach is “not sufficient” so it is requiring all international travellers arriving into Scotland to stay in a quarantine hotel.
Wales is adopting the same policy as England.
Mr Hancock indicated the measures might be in place until the autumn if vaccine booster jabs are needed in response to coronavirus variants.
He told the Commons that 16 hotels have been contracted to provide 4,600 rooms for the quarantine programme, which begins on Monday.
Anyone who attempts to conceal that they have been in a “red list” destination in the 10 days before arrival faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years, Mr Hancock said.
He also confirmed the new “enhanced testing” regime for all international travellers, with two tests required during the quarantine process from Monday.
Those who fail to take a test face a £1,000 fine, followed by a £2,000 penalty and an extension to their quarantine period, to 14 days, if they miss the second test.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: “People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.
He added: “I make no apologies for the strength of these measures, because we’re dealing with one of the strongest threats to our public health that we’ve faced as a nation.”
Asked when the new rules will be relaxed, Mr Hancock replied: “We want to exit from this into a system of safe international travel as soon as practicable and as soon as is safe.”
He said work is ongoing to assess the current vaccines against variants of the virus, adding: “If that isn’t forthcoming then we will need to vaccinate with a further booster jab in the autumn, which we’re working with the vaccine industry.
“These are the uncertainties within which we are operating and hence, for now, my judgment is the package we’ve announced today is the right one.”
A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said requiring passengers to pay for multiple tests once leisure travel is restarted would have “serious cost implications” and “hurt demand”.
She urged ministers to “develop a roadmap to reopen travel”.
Single adults will be charged £1,750 for a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel, which covers the hotel, transfer and testing.
It is not known if couples or families will be charged a discounted rate.
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said the policy will be “prohibitively expensive” for many people.
He went on: “Airlines should be made to offer passengers the option of cancelling for a full refund, as well as fee-free rebooking, while these restrictions remain in place.”
Passengers required to stay in a quarantine hotel will need to reserve a room in advance through an online system.
A document leaked last week indicated that the Government expects about 1,425 arrivals a day to require a room.
This would mean the 4,600 rooms could be fully booked after just three days, but Mr Hancock told MPs that “we will secure more as they are needed”.
These travellers will only be allowed to enter the UK through a “small number of ports that currently account for the vast majority of passenger arrivals”, Mr Hancock added.
A Government document seen by the PA news agency indicates that hotels will only be paid £50 per night to take part.
Paul Charles, from travel consultancy The PC Agency, commented: “It’s no wonder hotels are less than enthusiastic. Their costs will outstrip the income from Government.”
He also warned that the UK economy will take “a massive hit from the lack of certainty over reopening”.
In other developments:
– Some 12,646,486 people had received a first dose of vaccine up to February 8, a rise of 352,480 on the previous day.
– A further 1,052 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total by that measure to 113,850.
– As of 9am Tuesday there had been a further 12,364 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
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