Friday, 5 Mar 2021

Hotel quarantines for all UK arrivals not ruled out by Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab has declined to rule out ‘quarantine hotels’ being set up in the UK amid reports that arrivals to the UK could be forced to isolate in airport accommodation. 

Reports have suggested that the government is considering the proposal, which has been adopted by other countries including Australia. 

It comes as the Government suspended all ‘travel corridors’ amid concerns around new strains of coronavirus, with passengers being forced to produce a negative test upon arrival to the UK from Monday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government has ‘considered all of the possibilities’. Asked directly if quarantine hotels were a possibility, Mr Raab told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘We will consider all the measures in the round. 

‘In terms of enforcement, we are going to be strengthening the checks at the border – so when people come in to make sure that they have filled out the passenger location form, that they have got that negative test that they have to vouch for before they get on the flight.’

The Sunday Times reported that officials have been told to prepare for the creation of such hotels, but also to consider using GPS and facial-recognition technology to make sure people are remaining in isolation. 

Self-isolation has been in place for returning travellers for many months, but numerous other countries have acted more quickly and harshly, leading to widespread criticism of Government delays over its latest moves.

Mr Raab added: ‘Also, because the effect of abolishing or suspending the travel corridors is that people go into quarantine and self-isolation for 10 days, we’re making sure that Public Health England checks to make sure people are adhering to those rules.

‘As well as changing the rules, we are also making sure that we beef up the capacity to make those checks.’

Asked again about quarantine hotels on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Raab added: ‘There is a challenge based on its workability.’

But he reiterated that all measures are ‘under review’ and suggested the hotels were being considered.

The Sunday Times reported that the UK government is ‘only’ looking at systems where visitors are charged – with the significant expense of the accommodation seen as a deterrent in some countries.

The newspaper said officials have been told to study New Zealand’s ‘directed isolation’ policy that forces everyone arriving to pay for a stay at an airport hotel and isolate for two weeks, as well as Poland’s system which asks for a photograph of people isolating before cross referencing the images.

Australia has an isolation period that can last longer and charges travellers between £1,500 and £2,500 for their stays.

The Sunday Telegraph also reported that New Zealand’s policy is under consideration by the British government. 

It comes as new pictures showed a crowded Heathrow Airport on Sunday.

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said that he would ‘look at’ the option of quarantine hotels for passengers returning from abroad.

He told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘If that is the most effective way to tackle that, I’d look at that. I’m not sure necessarily it is the case.’

On Thursday, the UK Government slapped a travel ban on the entire continent of South America. 

Meanwhile, Mr Raab said this morning that the Government ‘hopes to make decisions’ on lifting lockdown by early spring – and that some restrictions can be relaxed by March.

He also said people should not go on holiday as he warned that the NHS is ‘on the cusp’.

‘I think right now people should be staying at home unless it is absolutely necessary, so, no, they shouldn’t be going on holiday – I don’t think that is appropriate.

‘Any travel, domestic or otherwise, ought to be for the limited exceptions that have been spelt out.

‘We’ve just got to stay at home as much as possible unless there are really strong, limited exceptional reasons for travelling domestically or internationally, and that’s the way we get through to a better place.’

Earlier this month, Brits were warned that they could be stuck abroad for another two weeks if they test positive before returning from holiday.

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