From February 15, there are 33 countries on the government’s ‘red list’ where travellers will have to quarantine in a hotel on their return to the UK.
The announcement by Matt Hancock on February 9, where he outlined the latest changes lockdown travel rules, followed the one made by Home Secretary Priti Patel in late January. She said that “too many people” were “coming in and out of our country each day”, so the UK self-isolation rules would have to be ramped up.
It came as over 100 cases of the new Covid-19 variant had now been identified in the UK, with some related to community transmission rather than international travel.
Currently, as we’re in the third UK lockdown, all but non-essential travel is banned and anyone coming into the UK has to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival. They also have to produce a negative Covid-19 test before they are allowed to fly.
These are the countries on the government’s ‘red list’ and the new rules around quarantining in the UK…
Coronavirus red list: Which countries are on the UK hotel quarantine list?
When the government first announced the plan for hotel quarantine, they only included people returning from countries already subject to a travel ban. These included South Africa and Brazil, after two new variants of Covid-19 were first located in these countries. However on January 4, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added more countries to the list.
These are the 33 countries on the UK hotel quarantine list:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
For now, these new rules on hotel quarantining affect any UK residents and Irish nationals who are travelling into any part of the country from any of the ‘red list’ countries. The quarantine rules only include residents and nationals of the UK because everyone else (i.e. non-UK residents or nationals) is banned from entering the country – for now.
The rules are in place while the UK’s Pfizer vaccine and Oxford vaccine programme works to protect people against Covid-19. However, it’s possible that the rules could change again in the next lockdown review, when Boris Johnson reveals the plan for lifting restrictions in spring.
Are there quarantine hotels in London?
There are set to be quarantine hotels all over Scotland and England, including in major cities like London.
Matt Hancock confirmed that the government has contracted 16 hotels for an initial 4,600 rooms to kick-start the quarantine programme. More will be contracted if and when they are needed, he added.
As reported by the Daily Telegraph, officials are looking to reserve 28,000 hotel rooms over the course of the scheme for passengers. The paper claims to have seen documents proving that officials believe they will have to accomodate 1,425 arrivals each day, all mostly coming into London from Heathrow Airport.
The list of hotels hasn’t been released by the government yet, but it’s thought that most of the hotels in the programme will be located close to airports to make the transfer as quick as possible.
This means that in London, hotels including ones owned by chains such as Hilton, Premier Inn, Novotel and Radisson could be included. They sit close by to major airports including Gatwick, Heathrow, Stanstead, Luton, London City and Southend.
How will hotel quarantine work in the UK?
Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that passengers would be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine”. Now, further guidance has been outlined for how quarantining in UK hotels will actually work.
Speaking to the House of Commons on February 9, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the rules around travelling during the lockdown. He said that the new measures would be building on on the “tough action that we’ve already taken”.
“It is of course illegal to travel abroad without a legally permitted reason to do so. So it’s illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.”
Guests in the hotels will have to stay in their rooms at all times.
The health secretary said, “We’re setting up a new system of hotel quarantine for UK and Irish residents who’ve been in red list countries in the last 10 days.
“In short, this means that any returning residents from these countries will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of arrival.
“When they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel, which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer if they test positive for COVID-19 during their stay.”
This means no fresh air, unless it’s through an open window (which one person was charged an extra £600 for in Hong Kong) and no exercise outdoors. During the Australian Open, multiple players complained that the isolation period would take away from their training time. Days later, videos emerged online of players running around their rooms and hitting tennis balls off the walls.
All passengers from the ‘red-list’ countries will be separated from others on connecting flights. This isolation will then continue on disembarking from the aircraft, through passport control, customers and then onto transport to the hotels.
These hotels will be monitored by security guards on all the floors of the hotels, with guests expected to clean their own rooms.
“People will need to remain in their rooms, and of course will not be allowed to mix with other guests.” Matt Hancock said, “And there will be visible security in place to ensure compliance, alongside necessary support – so even as we protect public health, we can look after the people in our care.”
This is the case in Australia, where one player was threatened with a $20,000 fine during the quarantine period for the Australian Open if he opened his hotel room door to speak to team mates.
Guests in the quarantine hotels will be tested for Covid-19 multiple times during their stay. If they test positive, they will have to pay for further nights in the hotel to complete a full 14-day isolation period.
The health secretary confirmed this in his address to the House of Commons as he said, “All passengers are already required to take a pre-departure test, and cannot travel to this country if it is positive.
“From Monday [February 15], all international arrivals, whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take further PCR tests on day 2 and day 8 of that quarantine.
“Passengers will have to book these tests through our online portal before they travel.”
The tests, conducted by NHS Test and Trace will cost all travellers £210. For those quarantining in hotels, this price will be included in the overall fee.
Paid for by travellers
The cost of the 10-day quarantine stay will be £1,750 for an individual travelling alone. Additional costs will incur for more than one adult or child.
This “includes the hotel, transport and testing” according Matt Hancock, and the “booking system will go live on Thursday, when we will also publish the full detailed guidance.”
Food delivered to the rooms
The £1,750 fee will include three meals per day, along with coffee, tea, fruit and water according chief executive of UK Hospitality, Katie Nicholls. But it’s thought that people will be able to order more food through room service, for an additional cost.
In Australia, those in quarantine hotels have been allowed to order takeaway meals to their rooms from services like UberEats. Whether this will be allowed in the UK hasn’t been confirmed yet.
Laundry services available
Seven items of laundry will also be made available for anyone who comes unprepared for the self-isolation period.
The hotel will deliver fresh towels and sheets at specific times during the stay. Guests will have to put out their own laundry and rubbish at certain times and anyone who fails to do this could receive a fine – like in Hong Kong.
No Test to Release allowed
Anyone under hotel quarantine in the UK, after coming back from one of the 33 ‘red list’ countries, is not allowed to use the Test to Release scheme. This programme was set up by the government last year and allowed travellers to pay for a Covid-19 test to find out whether they were free from the virus. If travellers tested negative, they could reduce their quarantine period after coming back from another country.
Those in a quarantine hotel, however, will complete the 10 days full isolation and cannot leave until this period is over – regardless of whether they have a negative test.
For the moment though, this is all we know. Further information on the UK quarantine hotels is set to be released in the coming days, along with more details on how passengers will be able to book the hotels.
The prime minister said that the Department of Health and Social Care was working hard to establish the quarantine facilities “as quickly as possible”.
What are the penalties for breaking hotel quarantine?
In the same announcement, Matt Hancock outlined the penalties for breaking hotel quarantine – including fines of up to £10,000 and a 10 year jail sentence in some cases.
“We’ll be backing this new system with strong enforcement of both home quarantine and hotel quarantine.” The health secretary explained, “People who flout these rules are putting us all at risk.”
Fines for breaking lockdown are already in place but they’ll be increased under the new measures. They now include:
- £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who doesn’t take a mandatory Covid-19 test
- £2,000 penalty to any international arrive who doesn’t take the second mandatory Covid-19 test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days.
- £5,000 fixed penalty notice, which rises to £10,000, for international arrives who don’t quarantine in their designated hotel.
“We’re also coming down hard on people who provide false information on the passenger locator form.” Matt Hancock said, before revealing the jail sentence that is now on the cards for anyone who is found to be providing false information about where they’ve travelled in from.
“Anyone who lies on a passenger locator form, and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on our red list in the 10 days before arrival here, will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.”
“These measures will be put into law this week, and I have been working with the Home Secretary, the Border Force, and the police to make sure more resources are being put into enforcing these measures.” He said, “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.
“I know that most people have been doing their bit, making huge sacrifices as part of the national effort.
“And these new enforcement powers will make sure their hard work and sacrifice isn’t undermined by a minority who don’t want to follow the rules.”
The new measures have already been harshly criticised on all sides.
Lord Sumption, who sat on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom until 2018, pointed out that ten years was currently the harshest sentence given to those who are found guilty of making threats to kill, non-fatal poisoning or indecent assault. He also pointed out, writing in the Daily Telegraph, that this sentence was also three years more than those given for violent firearms offences and sexual offences involving minors.
While Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth told the House of Commons that the first line of defence should be preventing the variants from entering the country in the first place. “Our first line of defence is surely to do everything we can to stop [new variants] arising in the first place. That means securing our borders to isolate new variants as they come in.
“He’s announced a detailed package today but he hasn’t announced comprehensive quarantine controls at the borders.”
However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the new measures. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said that those fined £10,000 would have to “go out of their way to lie and cheat” the system. The 10 year jail sentence reflected the “serious” nature of the offence, he said.
“I think the British public would expect pretty strong action” for those who seek to evade hotel quarantine, he added.
Who pays for hotel quarantine hotel?
Anyone forced to stay in hotel quarantine will have to pay £1,750 themselves to do so. This fee is applicable to a single adult travelling alone. There is an added fee of £650 for an additional person over 12 years old and a £325 fee for a child aged five to 12 years old.
This is more than double the original £800 estimate that was given originally and will set back travellers £175 per night.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, has confirmed that this will include three meals per day, along with tea, coffee and juice as well as the hotel, transport and testing. Other items will also be available for an added cost from room service.
The plans to make travellers pay for their own quarantine do seem to be in dispute with the World Health Organisation’s regulations though, as they say, “No charge shall be made [for] appropriate isolation or quarantine requirements of travellers.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has ruled out financial assistance for any hotel quarantine stays though, saying that people arriving from affected countries have “known for quite some time that there were issues,” and added, “The numbers that we expect to see returning [from abroad] would be quite low.”
The aim of the new hotel quarantine programme is to stop people from travelling abroad for non-essential reasons, under the threat of new Covid-19 variants.
Is the quarantine hotel mandatory in the UK?
Yes, hotel quarantining is mandatory for anyone returning from one of the 33 countries on the quarantine list.
A statement on the government’s website reads, ‘Building on existing tough measures, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed that from 15 February anyone travelling to the UK from a country on the UK’s travel ban list will be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for a period of 10 days.
‘The government is also working closely with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the changes come into effect.’
While a spokesperson for the DHSC said, ‘Throughout the pandemic, the government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, and that has led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world. It is currently illegal to go on holiday, and passengers travelling to the UK must provide proof of a negative test before they travel, and self-isolate on arrival. With increased police presence at airports and more physical checks at addresses to make sure people are self-isolating, we are taking decisive action.
‘We are now working at pace to secure the facilities we need to roll out managed quarantine for British nationals returning home from the most high-risk countries, and are rightly engaging with representatives from the hospitality, maritime and aviation industry, and learning from our friends around the world. In the face of new variants, it is important that the government continues to take the necessary steps to protect people and save lives.’
When to self isolate
From February 15, anyone arriving in the UK from a ‘red-list’ country will have to self-isolate in a hotel. Anyone returning to the UK from anywhere in the world also has to self-isolate at the moment. In this case, quarantine can happen in their own home.
As well as quarantining when you come home, it’s important to self-isolate if you have coronavirus symptoms. These have traditionally included a fever, continuous cough and loss of taste or smell.
Self-isolating is also necessary if anyone in your household or support bubble has symptoms of the virus. Track and Trace can also advise you to self-isolate.
So how do you self-isolate and when should you do it?
Who needs to self-isolate and how do you do it?
If you arrive in the UK, staying in a hotel or not, then you have to quarantine for 10 days. This might be in a quarantine hotel or it could be in your own home.
It’s easy to do if you can work from home and there are simple guidelines to follow.
When you arrive back into the UK, you should self-isolate, which means you can’t:
- Stop off anywhere on your journey to the place where you’ll be self isolating. If possible, you should use private transport means to get there.
- Have visitors to your accommodation, unless they are providing essential care.
- Share facilities with others in your accommodation. You cannot go to the bar in a quarantine hotel, for example.
- Leave your accommodation to go to work, school, public spaces.
- Leave your accommodation to go shopping. You should have shopping delivered to the place where you’re quarantining. A friend or relative can also drop it off.
- Leave your accommodation to walk your dog, or for any other reason unless it’s a medical emergency.
These are the current self-isolation rules, whether you’re quarantining in a hotel or at home.
Do you get paid if you have to self-isolate?
No one is currently being paid specifically to self-isolate. Instead, there is support available for anyone who cannot work from home and is required to quarantine.
If someone cannot work from home and is required to self-isolate, they should tell their employer. They will be able to inform them about whether they’re covered by sick leave or special leave policies. When holidays were allowed, this wasn’t offered to anyone who had come home from abroad and was required to self-isolate.
If this support isn’t available, then some people are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or other types of financial support. For those on a low income who are told to self-isolate by Test and Trace, this now includes the one-off £500 payment.
However, if someone is able to work from home and they are required to self-isolate, they will not be paid.