Priti Patel says ‘too early to speculate’ on travel restrictions
The third national lockdown in the UK is continuing, with Britons under stay at home orders and non-essential businesses and schools closed in a bid to drive down coronavirus cases. Now in a bid to reduce lockdown restrictions, the Government has been examining ways to prevent the spread of the virus before it arrives in the country.
Currently travel abroad is prohibited under Government guidelines, unless for specific exemptions such as health or work.
This is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, with cases soaring worldwide due to highly transmissible variants of the virus.
Travellers can arrive in the UK, but they must isolate for 10 days and bring a completed passenger locator form and proof of a negative coronavirus test.
Travel corridors, which meant those arriving from certain countries didn’t have to isolate, are currently suspended.
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What are quarantine hotels? Will the UK implement them?
One aspect being considered in a bid to relax lockdown restrictions are quarantine hotels.
These measures have been seen in countries like Australia and New Zealand, with any arrivals into those countries having to stay in designated hotels until they are proven to be virus-free.
If implemented, those arriving in Britain could face a 10-day stay in selected hotels under quarantine conditions.
Testing for Covid-19 during their stay would take place, with people allowed to leave once testing negative for the virus.
Those staying may have to foot the hotel bill themselves, and may not be able to choose which hotel to stay in.
Measures like this are currently in place in Australia, with anyone arriving in the country isolating in designated hotels for 14 days.
Those quarantining are given food throughout the day, and some are even permitted to undertake exercise in allotted slots on hotel grounds.
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On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government’s Covid-O committee to decide on stricter rules for arriving travellers.
The move follows concerns about the possibility of new coronavirus variants being imported from elsewhere in the world following the emergence of concerning strains in South Africa and Brazil.
Mr Johnson said: “We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in, we’ve got to be able to keep that under control.”
He said the “idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing we’re actively now working on”.
The PM continued: “We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad.”
Whether it would be a blanket quarantine hotel policy or just specific countries requiring isolation remains to be seen.
There has been a kickback from the aviation industry on the prospect of quarantine hotels.
A Heathrow spokesman said: “We support measures that will bring the Covid-19 crisis to an end once and for all.
“However, we must be clear that a blanket hotel quarantine is effectively the closure of our borders which carries huge ramifications for Britain and its aviation sector, already on its knees.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, and Tim Alderslade, who leads Airlines UK, said: “We have fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic, but policy should be based on evidence and there must be a roadmap out of these restrictions as soon as it is safe.
“The impact of further measures would be catastrophic.
“They will impact vital freight and PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation.
“The Government cannot achieve its global Britain aspirations without airlines and airports.”
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