Everything you need to know about the UK’s hotel quarantine policy

Sep 21, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

The United Kingdom is taking a strict approach to arrivals from some high-risk countries. In January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel outlined new measures at the border, which announced that arrivals from high-risk countries will have to undergo their 10-day quarantine in a government-supervised hotel.

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Here’s everything you need to know.

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So, what is it?

In January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that arrivals coming from high-risk countries will be required to quarantine in supervised accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days. The hotel quarantine policy took effect on 15 February and only applies to those who are still able to enter the U.K. from high-risk countries.

Given the travel ban in place from high-risk countries, non-nationals and non-residents who have been in the designated high-risk counties in the past 10 days have been banned from entering the U.K. Those who are still allowed to enter the country will be able to do so only through one of six airports in England.

Those who can still enter the U.K. from one of the travel ban countries will have to undergo their mandatory 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Who has to quarantine in a hotel?

All travellers who cannot be denied entry who are coming from one of high-risk destinations are required to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel. The hotel quarantine requirement applies to those who can still enter the U.K. — in other words, British or Irish nationals or third-country nationals who have residence rights in the U.K.

Related: All countries that are on the UK’s travel ban list

What about travellers transiting through another location?

The U.K.’s hotel quarantine only applies to British or Irish nationals or third-country nationals with residence rights in the U.K. who have been in one of the high-risk countries in the past 10 days. So, a non-national or non-resident who is in Brazil (a travel ban country) could fly to Doha (not on the travel ban list) and stay there for 10 days. After 10 days outside of Brazil, the traveller would then be able to enter England and would not be required to undergo a hotel quarantine.

They must still have a negative COVID-19 test and have completed a passenger locator form in order to board their flight to the U.K., and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two of their quarantine if they are fully vaccinated (more on that below).

Related: England requires all travellers coming from abroad have a negative COVID-19 test result

(Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Do UK citizens or nationals have to hotel quarantine?

Yes. Any traveller, regardless of their nationality or vaccination status, coming from one of the high-risk countries is required to quarantine in the government-supervised accommodation.

How much does it cost?

Before a passenger coming from a travel ban country travels to the U.K., they will need to book their 10-day hotel stay through an online platform. The quarantine package costs £2,285 for an individual travelling alone.

The £2,285 price tag includes transport from the airport to the hotel, testing while at the hotel (more on that below), the hotel stay and food and beverage.

The additional rate for one extra adult or a child older than 11 is £1,430. The additional rate for a child between five and 11 years old is £325.

Does it apply to arrivals to all 4 nations?

The government has worked with the devolved administrations to implement similar policies.

All arrivals into Scotland from abroad by air must have to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine. The Scottish policy applies to all international arrivals, rather than just those coming from the travel ban countries.

Travellers intending to go to Northern Ireland or Wales from a travel ban country will need to undergo their mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine in England, as there are no nonstop flights to either of the destinations.

How do travellers get from the airport to the hotel?

All travellers arriving in England must still fill out a passenger locator form, regardless of where they’re travelling from. Those entering from the high-risk countries will be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine.”

The cost of the transfer from the airport to the hotel is included in the £2,285 price tag.

Do you have to take a test in quarantine?

Yes. All passengers arriving in the country from international locations are now required to take at least one additional COVID-19 tests whilst in quarantine.

The government says that the new testing requirements will help it to detect and block new variants from entering the border. If either of the tests come back positive, the person has to quarantine for an additional 10 days from the date the test was administered.

Passengers will have to register for their additional tests online before travelling through a government portal.

Which hotels are participating?

The government said it has secured contracts with 16 hotels for an initial 4,963 rooms. There are an additional 58,000 rooms on standby.

At this time, we still don’t know exactly which hotels are participating in the government-supervised quarantine scheme. We do know, however, that the 16 hotels are split across the following six airports:

  • Heathrow Airport
  • Gatwick Airport
  • London City Airport
  • Birmingham Airport
  • Farnborough Airport

The government says that other ports of entry may be added.

(Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

Will travellers be provided with food?

The £2,285 package includes the cost of food and beverage for the duration of the stay.

Additionally, travellers can elect to have items delivered to them, which will be brought to the door of their room by hotel staff.

Will travellers be able to Test to Release out of a full quarantine?

No. Travellers entering the U.K. from the high-risk countries cannot test out of a full 10-day quarantine.

All other international arrivals can still utilise the Test to Release scheme in England. With it, an unvaccinated traveller must quarantine for a full five days. After their fifth day, the traveller can purchase a COVID-19 test from a government-approved provider. If the test returns a negative result, the traveller can forgo the rest of their quarantine. However, they will still have to take an additional test on their eighth day of being back in the country.

Will guests be able to leave their room for supervised exercise?

The government says that travellers will be able to leave their room only under very limited circumstances, including for exercise. However, the traveller must get special permission from security in order to do so, and it’s not guaranteed.

Other exemptions for travellers being allowed to leave their hotel room include the following limited circumstances:

  • to travel directly to leave the Common Travel Area (the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands);
  • to fulfil a legal obligation including attending court or satisfying bail conditions or to participate in legal proceedings;
  • in exceptional circumstances, such as:
    • seeking medical assistance where this is required urgently or on the advice of a registered medical practitioner;
    • to avoid injury, illness or escape a risk of harm (for example situations such as fire or flooding, or cases where domestic abuse occurs within a group quarantining together);
    • to access critical public services including social services or services provided to victims (for example critical access such as for a child to see their social worker); and
    • to access veterinary services where required urgently or on the advice of a veterinary surgeon (no animals other than guide dogs would be in a hotel quarantine).
(Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

What’s the punishment for avoiding hotel quarantine?

The government has laid out strict penalties for those looking to evade quarantine requirements. Most notably, if a passenger is found to have lied on their passenger locator form about where they came from, they could be subject to up to 10 years in prison.

Other maximum fines break down as follows: £1,000 for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory COVID-19 test; £2,000 for any arrival who fails to take a second test and quarantine will be automatically extended to 14 days; £4,000 for anyone who arrives in England without having booked a quarantine hotel package; and fines of between £5,000 and £10,000 for failing to quarantine in a designated hotel.

Will you still need a negative COVID-19 test to enter the UK?

Yes. All arrivals to the U.K. — with the exception of those arriving from Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Ascension Islands and St Helena — must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. This requirement will also apply to those coming from high-risk countries, who will then have to quarantine for 10 days in a government-supervised hotel.

Both U.K. and foreign nationals arriving in the country must show a negative COVID-19 test result, taken up to three days before departure. Note the pre-departure test requirement ends for vaccinated travellers on 4 October.

Bottom line

The hotel quarantine policy is another measure by the U.K. to secure its borders in an attempt to block different strains of the coronavirus from entering.

The policy is expensive and very restrictive to deter people from travelling to high-risk areas. If you do need to return from a travel ban country make sure you are aware of your obligations and have everything organised before your arrival in the United Kingdom.

Featured photo by Steve Parsons – PA Images/Getty Images.

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