The UK is drawing up plans to mandate hotel quarantines for all arrivals, following in the footsteps of Australia, New Zealand and several Asian countries. This would involve inbound travelers quarantining at predesignated hotels rather than at home, with the full cost likely to be borne by the traveler.
PM Johnson says hotel quarantining on the horizon
With countries worldwide tightening travel restrictions as concerns grow over new COVID strains, the UK will consider implementing Australia-style hotel quarantines for all arriving travelers. PM Boris Johnson will meet with the government’s COVID-0 committee today, with a decision expected within the week. If the plan is adopted, travelers would need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days immediately upon arrival.
Key politicians aren’t in complete agreement about how the scheme would work. The PM and Transport Secretary Grant Shapp are believed to favor hotel quarantines for arrivals from high-risk countries only, helping the UK avoid economic catastrophe. Home Secretary Priti Patel is pushing for blanket measures on all arrivals, citing other undiscovered COVID strains possibly in circulation. Health Secretary Matt Hancock echoed these concerns, saying,
“The new variant I really worry about is the one that is out there that hasn’t been spotted… there are probably others elsewhere that simply haven’t been picked up.”
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How the new quarantine system would work
The new quarantine measures are said to closely resemble the model adopted by Australia. Along with New Zealand, Australia implemented hotel quarantines very early on in the COVID pandemic, with both countries keeping infections low for most of the year. While such measures effectively control the virus, travelers are reluctant to cover the costs out of their own pockets.
The UK’s new plan involves a 10 day quarantine period at an approved hotel, with the full cost set to be covered by the traveler (est. £1,500 per stay). In other countries, travelers cannot leave their rooms, although some hotels have allowed brief exercise periods each day. No visitors are allowed and meals are delivered to your room, with some hotels banning external food ordering.
Hotel room shortages are a concern
One major problem the UK will have is ensuring there are enough rooms for all inbound arrivals. A source told The Telegraph there are only around 10,000 rooms available close to Heathrow, which amounts to just one day of Heathrow Airport arrivals. The government has discussed using buses to transport arrivals to hotels in other areas.
With a new hotel quarantine system in place, the UK’s ‘test-to-release’ scheme will be abandoned after only a few weeks. This scheme allowed inbound travelers to cut their mandatory self-isolation period from 10 days to 5 days with a negative test result. With a stricter quarantine system on the horizon, government ministers are gravitating towards more forceful action to curb the spread of new COVID strains.
Are you happy the UK is considering hotel quarantines or is it too little, too late? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.