Aviation industry leaders have warned of the “catastrophic” impact of requiring travellers to the UK to quarantine in hotels as ministers prepare to discuss stricter border measures.
A potential hotel quarantine rule is expected to be on the agenda as Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a meeting of the Government’s Covid-O committee on Tuesday.
Senior ministers will use the meeting to consider how to help prevent the spread of coronavirus variants, such as those found in Brazil and South Africa.
The Best Western hotel chain, which has more than 250 locations in Great Britain, said it was waiting for a Government “green light” to provide “safe, cared for Covid isolation for travellers requiring hotel quarantine”.
Andrew Denton, head of hotels at Best Western GB, said: “We have spent nine months doing the homework and the hard work behind the scenes working with some of the UK’s leading medical people and organisations to put the procedures and policies in place to do this properly and safely, for guests and staff.
“We are expecting an announcement from the Government tomorrow. Best Western hotels are ready to step in, help out and contribute to controlling the spread of the virus at this time of national need.”
Last month, Best Western said it was working to make 180 hotels available to the NHS for care of non-Covid patients to free up capacity.
AOA & @airlines_UK are concerned by speculation on hotel quarantine, given UK increased travel restrictions only last week. Further steps need to be evidence-based. They would make a devastating situation worse – Govt financial is support ever-more urgent. https://t.co/FJs8RaLDNR
— AOA (@AOA_UK) January 25, 2021
Other hotel chains contacted by the PA news agency on Monday said they were waiting for an announcement from the Government before commenting further.
Earlier on Monday, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK issued a joint statement insisting that the UK already had “some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world”, claiming that introducing tougher rules would be “catastrophic”.
They warned that further measures would “impact vital freight and PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation”.
A spokesman for Heathrow Airport warned that “a blanket hotel quarantine” would mean the effective closure of the UK’s borders and carried “huge ramifications” for the country and the aviation sector.
The airport called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to provide a “comprehensive financial support package for UK aviation”.
According to reports, a new hotel quarantine requirement for travellers entering the UK could cost them more than £1,000.
The Times also said the potential measure could take up to three weeks to implement.
The newspaper cited a hotel industry source who said that a quarter of the hotels around Heathrow airport in London were currently closed.
Hotels forced to shut their doors due to the fall in passenger numbers will need time to reopen, the Times reported.
Hotel quarantine rules for international travellers have already been implemented in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand.
In March last year Australia introduce strict border controls, including all requiring arriving travellers to undertake 14 days of quarantine in a designated facility.
Quarantine is administered by the country’s states and territories and inbound travellers have to contribute to hotel quarantine costs.
In New South Wales (NSW), air passengers must undergo a Covid-19 symptom and temperature check at the airport.
Those with symptoms will be tested at the airport and transferred to a hotel managed by NSW Health to await their result. People without symptoms can collect their luggage and are transferred to a hotel or other designated facility.
All accommodation is pre-arranged, with food provided, and travellers are invoiced by NSW at the end of their stay.
Those not following the rules face heavy penalties.
Elsewhere on Monday, President Joe Biden was formally reinstating a ban on non-citizens travelling to the US from the UK, Ireland and the EU over concerns of new highly infectious coronavirus variants.
He was reversing an order from his predecessor, Donald Trump, that called for an end to the restrictions from Tuesday.
Mr Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel.”