No contracts awarded for quarantine hotels a week before policy starts

Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

No formal contracts have been awarded to hotels to quarantine arrivals from countries on the “red list”, the Government has admitted, despite the policy entering into force next week.

UK nationals and residents returning from the 33 countries where the Government fears coronavirus variants have spread will be kept in hotels for 10 days from February 15.

Currently they must self-isolate at home.

A commercial specification was issued on Thursday evening to hotels near air and sea ports, but Downing Street said on Monday that no formal contracts have been awarded.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Last week the Department of Health issued a commercial specification to hotels near ports and airports.

“This asked for proposals on how they could deliver managed quarantine facilities. No formal contracts have been awarded yet.”

Hotel chains have previously criticised the Government’s delay in releasing further details of how the new rules will work.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “It beggars belief that no agreements have been made with hotels, just a few days before the quarantining system is due to begin.

“It will be over 50 days since the South African strain was identified and nearly a year since other countries have been successfully implementing hotel quarantine.

“Even when these measures eventually do begin, scientists have made clear that the limited way they are being introduced will be insufficient to stop mutant strains of the virus reaching the UK, potentially putting the gains of the vaccine at risk.

“Conservative incompetence is yet again putting people at risk.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, on a visit in Derbyshire, suggested border controls could play a greater role against new coronavirus variants when infection rates are further reduced.

Asked about introducing tougher measures, the Prime Minister told reporters: “They are most effective, border controls, when you’ve got the rate of infection down in your country.

“And at the moment we’ve greatly reduced the rate of infection from the peak, where it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still extremely high, and for border controls really to make that final difference, so you can isolate new variants as they come in, you need to have infections really much lower so you can track them as they spread.

“Don’t forget, we in the UK are capable of seeing variants arise here, just in the UK, the Kent variant arose here, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be relying very much on border controls as we get the rates of infection down overall.”

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