Ministers are expected to discuss plans for tougher restrictions at the UK’s borders on Tuesday, with the government attempting to reduce the spread of new variants of COVID-19.
Over recent weeks, concerns have been raised about multiple new variants of the virus, including variants discovered in South Africa and Brazil. Data on the new variants is limited, though it is believed they may be more transmissible than previous variants of the virus.
It is understood that the Government is considering proposals for ‘quarantine hotels’, which could see arrivals to the UK having to quarantine in a hotel instead of self-isolating at home, as under current rules. It is thought that quarantine hotels may make it easier to check that people are following self-isolation rules and hence limiting the chance of spreading the virus.
It is unclear as to how quarantine hotels may actually be implemented in the UK – if the Government decides to pursue the concept. Potentially, all arrivals could have to quarantine in hotels, or alternatively, a policy may just see arrivals from a list of countries forced to experience hotel quarantine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed on Monday that the UK already has “one of the tightest regimes in the world”, though some have criticised the government for slow action in restricting arrivals over the last year.
Under current rules, most arrivals to the UK must show officials a negative test result from within 72 hours of their journey starting. Arrivals then have to self-isolate at home for up to 10 days. Arrivals from countries considered high risk are though currently banned.
Quarantine hotels have been used in other countries around the world during the pandemic, including New Zealand, which has been recognised for its strong handling of the pandemic. It is thought that strong border controls and lengthy lockdown measures at the start of the pandemic have helped the country contain the virus – with just 25 people in New Zealand reported to have died from the virus.
New quarantine rules, if announced in the UK, would spark a further blow to the aviation industry, which has already suffered particularly badly during the pandemic.
Coronavirus case rates have been falling in the UK recently and on Monday, the UK reported a further 22,195 cases of the virus – its lowest daily increase since 15 December 2020. The NHS is though continuing to face unprecedented pressure and deaths have remained high over the last week. Last Wednesday, the UK reported a record daily increase of 1,820 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test.