The UK’s hotel quarantine takes effect today: Everything you need to know
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
The United Kingdom is taking a new 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 33 high-risk countries will have to undergo their 10-day quarantine in a government-supervised hotel.
At the time of the announcement, there were few further details. However, as of 15 February, the new policy has taken effect. As of this morning, all arrivals into England from one of 33 travel ban countries will have to undergo their 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
“The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Here’s everything you need to know.
So, what is it?
In January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that arrivals coming from 33 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 the 33 high-risk countries.
Given the travel ban in place from the 33 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 33 high-risk destinations are required to quarantine in a government-supervised hotel. The new 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.
Travellers eligible to enter the U.K. from the following 33 countries are required to quarantine in government-supervised hotels for 10 days:
Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, French Guiana, Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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 33 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 would, however, still be required to self-isolate in their own accommodation for 10 days. Additionally, 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 days two and eight of their quarantine (more on that below).
Do UK citizens or nationals have to hotel quarantine?
Yes. Any traveller, regardless of their nationality, coming from one of the 33 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 £1,750 for an individual travelling alone.
The £1,750 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 12 is £650. The additional rate for a child between five and 12 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 33 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 33 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 £1,750 pricetag.
Do you have to take a test in quarantine?
Yes. As Hancock laid out last week, all passengers arriving in the country from international locations are now required to take two additional COVID-19 tests whilst in quarantine. Regardless of where they’ve entered the country from, all travellers have to take a COVID-19 test on days two and eight of their quarantine as of 15 February.
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.
Will travellers be provided with food?
The £1,750 package includes the cost of food and beverage.
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 33 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, a 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 lave 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).
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. As of 18 January, 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. After taking two tests in quarantine, all travellers entering the country will take a minimum of three tests.
What are the rules for everyone else entering the UK?
As of 15 February, all other travellers entering from non-travel ban countries will follow the same rules. That includes the following measures:
- Each passenger over the age of 11 must have a negative COVID-19 test result, taken up to three days before scheduled departure;
- Each passenger must fill out a passenger locator form prior to arriving in the U.K.;
- Each passenger must self-isolate for 10 days; and
- Each passenger must take two COVID-19 tests while in quarantine (on days two and eight).
There are some exceptions to the above measures. For example, you do not need to self-isolate in England if you’re travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. Additionally, those travelling for certain medical reasons and airline crew will not be required to have a negative COVID-19 test. If you think you may be exempt from one of the above restrictions, it’ll be worth checking on gov.uk for a full list.
The new 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.
Keep in mind, too, that the U.K. is still under a national lockdown. As such, all non-essential travel is illegal. In January, Patel detailed that the government will be cracking down on those looking to leave the country to ensure their travel is deemed essential. Travellers will need to declare their reason for travel and travellers should expect increased police enforcement at ports and airports.
Additional reporting by Hayley Coyle.
Featured photo by Steve Parsons – PA Images/Getty Images.
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