Travellers who arrive in the UK and fail to follow new rules to contain the coronavirus will face £10,000 fines and 10 years in prison, the health secretary has told the Commons.
Matt Hancock said people arriving from 33 countries on the government’s “red list” will have to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in government approved hotels.
Hancock told MPs the UK is “turning a corner” in the battle against the virus and warned that the government “must protect this hard fought progress” as he unveiled stringent restrictions on travel.
“Everyone has a part to play in making our borders safe”, Hancock said, revealing that ministers have signed contracts with 16 hotels for the quarantine programme – which will involve “visible security”.
Summer holidays ‘killed off’ by health secretary
Passengers who “lie” to try and conceal visits to countries on the “red list” of high-risk Covid hotspots face up to 10 years in jail, with anyone trying to avoid mandatory quarantine facing fines up to £10,000, said Hancock.
The restrictive border controls may be in place until the autumn, leading the travel industry to warn that prospects of summer holidays have effectively been “killed-off”.
“This latest measure means all travellers to the UK will need to take three tests in addition to quarantine,” a joint statement from Airlines UK and the Airport Operators Association said. “It adds a further barrier to viable air travel and deepens the worsening 2021 outlook for our sector, which has already been largely grounded for a year.
“Airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands. Aviation-specific financial support is urgently needed to ensure our sector can get through the year.”
Shares in the UK’s biggest airlines fell more than 3% after Hancock’s statement to the Commons, as Paul Charles from PC Agency travel consultants and the Quash Quarantine campaign said: “It’s quite clear we have entered a much tougher new phase where the government wants to squeeze border entry and exit completely by adding these layers of complexity.”
Speaking before Hancock’s statement, Charles told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that if passengers have to pay for three three coronavirus tests it would “obviously kill off travel, that will stop anybody really, even if they have to make an essential trip”.
“The Government’s hotel quarantine system won’t be in place until 50 days after the South African variant was found in our country,” the Labour party tweeted four days ago (February 5). “We need quicker action, not more dither and delay.”
‘This is out of control – resist the tyranny,’ says Farage
The measures are extreme for many, not least Nigel Farage who tweeted: “This is out of control. 10 years in prison for a lie goes too far, we must resist this tyranny.”
Oliver Smith asks in the Telegraph: “The vaccine was supposed to give us freedom, so why is our government fencing us in?”
Smith reminds for “reference” that the “average term for convicted rapists in Britain is seven” years while questioning “how exactly is it fair to threaten travellers” with jail time when “the punishment for non-travellers who break self-isolation after a positive test is only a fine of £1,000?”
Rules for every passenger
From Monday, every passenger arriving in the UK will have to complete a passenger locator form before their arrival, listing their UK address, contact details and departure country.
All passengers must also provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours.
Border Force officials will be conducting spot checks and airlines can be fined £2,000 for passengers who arrive without the required documents and proof of a negative test.
All travellers arriving in England must then self-isolate for 10 days and take two coronavirus tests – one on day two and the other on day eight of their quarantine. They will have to pay for their tests and will have to isolate for a further 10 days if they test positive.
Failure to take a mandatory coronavirus test will result in a £1,000 fine, followed with a £2,000 fine for a second breach as well as automatic extension of quarantine to 14 days.
Exemptions to quarantine continues to exist for a small number of select occupations – the full published list includes pilots and seasonal workers.
‘Test to release’ continues – cuts quarantine in half
The ‘test to release’ scheme will continue for people arriving from non-red list countries, the government confirmed, meaning travellers can exit quarantine on day five, subject to a negative Covid-19 test. They will still have to take another test on day eight and anyone who tests positive at any time must isolate for a further 10 days.
Tests cost between £65 and £120.
Travellers from the red-list countries – where potentially vaccine resistant strains of the virus are prevalent – will be charged £1,750 to pay for the costs of their quarantine.
The government has so far secured 4,600 hotel rooms out of the 28,000 it believes will be required to accommodate 1,425 arrivals a day.
Passengers will have to book their quarantine in advance on a government website that will be launched this week.