The Government is due to reveal the outcome of ministerial discussions over imposing stricter border measures to protect the country against the spread of new coronavirus variants.
It has been widely reported that this could include the introduction of quarantine hotels where travellers arriving to England will need to self-isolate for a period of time.
An official announcement is yet to be made, but here the PA news agency looks at how such a policy could work:
What are the rules likely to be?
Various quarantine options are understood to have been on the table when the Government’s Covid-O Committee met on Tuesday.
Whitehall sources suggested that ministers may opt for a more limited system for England, that could target passengers arriving from high-risk coronavirus hotspots.
The BBC reported that arrivals from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal – due to many flights from Brazil coming via its capital Lisbon, will be required to isolate in a hotel for 10 days.
Why are further border measures being discussed?
Hotel quarantine has been proposed as a way to ensure people follow self-isolation rules relating to international travel, and protect against the arrival of new variants of coronavirus entering the country.
Amid significant pressure on the NHS, there are concerns about the risks posed by strains identified in South Africa and Brazil.
What are the current rules for arrivals to the UK?
All UK Travel Corridors suspended to protect against new COVID-19 variants.
From 4am Mon 18 Jan, all travellers to the UK (including British & Irish nationals) must:
✅Take a test in the 3 days before departure✅Self-isolate for 10 days
— Dept for Transport #StayHomeSaveLives (@transportgovuk) January 15, 2021
Direct flights to the UK from South Africa, Brazil and Portugal have already been suspended, but British residents have been permitted to return through indirect routes and then self-isolate at home.
More widely, anyone entering the country from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result taken up to three days before departure.
Travellers must also self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival even if they tested negative.
An exemption from self-isolation applies for people heading to England from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
In England, travellers may be able to end self-isolation early if they pay for a private coronavirus test.
Where will people be quarantined?
Travellers are expected to be placed in hotel accommodation, but details on which companies and which locations that could be used are not known.
The Best Western Great Britain hotel chain said it was waiting for a Government “green light” to provide “safe, cared for Covid isolation for travellers requiring hotel quarantine”.
Head of hotels Andrew Denton said it was ready to “step in” and help, with the company having spent nine months preparing to put in place safe policies and procedures for staff and guests.
Will travellers have to pay for their quarantine accommodation?
Yes it appears so.
Reports suggest arrivals in England would have to cover the price of quarantining in hotels for 10 days, potentially costing them more than £1,000.
When could hotel quarantine start?
This will depend on how quickly the logistics of potentially accommodating thousands of arrivals can be handled.
Reports suggest, with many hotels closed due to low traveller numbers, it could take up to three weeks to implement the policy.
Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western Great Britain, said it could mobilise “within 24 to 48 hours” for a currently open hotel, and a “bit longer” for a closed one.
How long would new quarantine rules be in place for?
This is as yet unknown.
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said measures should be about “buying us enough time”, adding: “We don’t know which countries these variants are arising in.”
He said the country needed to be “cautious” as the coronavirus vaccines are rolled out, but that he hoped further measures would only be for a “temporary period”.
Will the similar rules apply for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales?
Ministers in Northern Ireland were expected to discuss the issue of quarantine at a Stormont Executive meeting on Tuesday.
In Scotland, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government would “go at least as far” as England in enhancing quarantine measures.
There is currently no direct route into Wales for international travellers, but a Welsh Government spokesman said they expected to discuss the plans with the UK Government in more detail.
What has the aviation industry said?
Aviation industry leaders have warned of a “catastrophic” impact from stricter border measures, arguing that they could jeopardise “tens of thousands” of jobs and businesses that depend on aviation.
Have other countries used hotel quarantines?
Yes. Australia became one of the first countries to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine in March, while the practice was also introduced in China, New Zealand, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Qatar and Thailand.
Writing on the Institute for Government website last week, Sarah Nickson, a senior researcher, said Australia’s two-week hotel quarantine rule for arrivals and border closure to non-citizens had “undoubtedly helped limit its case numbers and deaths”, with it seeing around 900 deaths attributed to Covid-19 with 28,000 confirmed cases.
New Zealand has also been hailed for its tough response at its border during the coronavirus pandemic, with it recording only 25 Covid-19 related deaths among 2,290 cases.