Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that travellers returning to the UK from “red list” countries will be sent to Government-approved quarantine hotels for 10 days.
Speaking in the Commons this week (27 January), the Prime Minister said passengers will be “met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine”.
People will also be required to fill in a form explaining why their trip is necessary, with enforcement of the ban on leisure travel stepped up at airports.
Here is everything you need to know.
Why are new rules being introduced?
The rules will apply to UK residents arriving from countries where non-UK residents are already banned from entering the UK, and initially cover countries which are already subject to a travel ban due to concerns over mutant strains.
New restrictions on travel are being introduced in order to reduce the risk of UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries spreading these potentially more infectious variants of Covid-19.
"We will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in Government-provided accommodation such as hotels for 10 days, without exception,” said Johnson.
That has not yet been announced when these new rules will come into force, but it is hoped the delay will allow people to return home without an additional hotel stay.
What are the “red list” countries?
The Home Office said the rules will apply to people arriving from countries where non-UK residents are already banned from entering the UK.
These 30 destinations cover all of South America, southern Africa and Portugal.
These are the countries affected by the quarantine hotels policy:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
When will the list of countries be reviewed?
Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the list of nations from which travellers must quarantine in hotels on arrival in the UK is to be reviewed.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We will be reviewing today (28 January) how extensive that list of countries needs to be and we will be guided by advice from our scientific advisers and we will be reporting back later on where the line will be drawn.”
Will I have to pay for my accommodation?
The cost to the Government of accommodating a person in a quarantine hotel has not been disclosed, but further details will be released next week.
It is thought it could cost in excess of £1,000 per person, and it is not yet known whether travellers will have to foot the bill themselves.
The hotels willing to be included in the scheme have not been confirmed, but hotel chain Best Western said it was ready to “step in”.
Who is permitted to travel?
People will also be required to fill in a form explaining why their trip is necessary; travel operators are expected to face fines if they fail to inspect these forms.
Setting out more details of the measures, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The rules are clear, people should be staying at home unless they have a valid reason to leave.
Ms Patel went on to give examples of people who “should simply not be travelling”.
She said: “At St Pancras people have been turning up with their skis, that is clearly not acceptable. We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world that they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world.
“Going on holiday is not an exemption and it’s important that people stay at home.”
It's been reported that even elite sporting athletes won’t be exempt from the stringent new measures: Premier League stars returning to England after playing World Cup qualifiers in Portugal and South America will be sent to quarantine hotels for 10 days.
Are the rules England only?
At the time of writing, the new rules will only affect travellers returning to England, although it is likely the devolved nations of the UK will announce similar or even stricter travel restrictions in the coming days.
Speaking to the commons, the Prime Minister said the Government will be working closely with the devolved administrations to implement the new measures so that “where possible” it can “continue to take a UK-wide approach.”
Following a call with members of the UK, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments about the plan, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a “comprehensive system of supervised quarantine” for travellers arriving in the UK, and said the Prime Minister’s current plan does not go far enough.
Sturgeon criticised the “minimal” proposals and said they leave “far too many weak points and gaps” for Covid-19 and any variants of the virus to enter the country.
Sturgeon added that while the Scottish Government will initially emulate the UK Government’s steps on enhancing quarantine arrangements, it will be seeking “urgently” to persuade them to go “much further”.
"We are very clear that our preference is to have consistent quarantine rules across the UK, but if there is no agreement to go further on a four-nations basis, we will be considering going further ourselves and we will set out any such additional measures next week,” she said.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Scotsman