UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has declared that travellers from red-list countries staying in quarantine hotels in England and will face a bill of £1,750 for their stay.
As of 8 February, this cost will be paid by UK and Irish residents returning from what the UK has deemed 33 red list countries. Those who violate their assigned 10-day quarantine could be confronted with fines between £5,000 and £10,000.
In a statement delivered in the Commons, Mr Hancock announced that 16 hotels have been confirmed as quarantine facilities leaving the country with a total of 4,600 available rooms. He went on to celebrate a new “enhanced testing” programme for everyone entering the UK effective Monday which obligates all travellers to take two tests over the course of their quarantine. According to government advice, travellers should take a test on the second and eighth day of their 10-day quarantine regardless of where they are isolating. Each test will be paid for by travellers themselves, each costing £210.
“People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk,” Mr Hancock told MPs. He stressed that airlines and travel companies are legally obligated to ensure their clients have agreed to and made arrangements for the UK’s new safety measures before their departure and that failure to do so will result in fines for both companies and customers. Those who do not take the first required test will be fined £1,000, a fine that will double to £2,000 if the second test is also evaded. Consequences additionally include an extension by 14 days to the compulsory quarantine.
Travel restrictions are tightening not just in England, but all across the UK. Anyone arriving in Scotland by air regardless of previous destination must stay at a quarantine hotel. Wales and Northern Ireland are likewise increasing precautions, passengers being required to complete their quarantine in an English quarantine hotel as neither country is receiving direct international flights at the moment.
Anyone arriving in England is still required to complete a passenger locator form. Those who choose to lie on their locator form after visiting a red list country have been threatened with a fine of up to £10,000 or up to 10 years in prison.
This news has the potential to further complicate the situation for international students studying in the UK. Not only will students potentially not be able to arrive or return to university, but may face increasing financial pressure due to compulsory fees for testing and quarantine.
When asked when travel would start to look normal again, Mr Hancock answered: “We want to exist from this into a system of safe international travel as soon as practicable and as soon is safe.”