Anyone visiting the UK will have to take compulsory COVID-19 tests, paid for by themselves and this will be in place from next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock is all set to announce to MPs.
Mr Hancock will say that from the 15th of February (next Monday), all passengers visiting the UK will be obliged to take a PCR test, which costs around £100 per test, on the 2nd day and 8th day after arrival.
The new UK quarantine restrictions and rules will cause more distress in the already-bemused airline industry. This will apply to arrivals from 33 ‘Red Zone’ countries heading into hotel quarantine and those isolated at home.
Currently, people visiting the UK are required to produce proof of a negative coronavirus test taken 72 hours before arrival. However, scientists from the government’s SAGE group have advised ministers that this pre-departure testing can only contribute to preventing people with coronavirus entering the UK.
The testing crackdown, aimed at hindering the spread of deadly new variants into the UK, is part of the government’s anticipated borders plan, including mandatory quarantine in hotels for arrivals from the Red Zone.
The COVID-19 tests taken on day two will be sent for analysis to identify new coronavirus strains under the new regime. Failure in getting tested would result in a fine being imposed, and travellers will have to pay for their own tests. It will bring the UK into line with Italy, Canada and Dubai, where tests on arrival have been made compulsory. Generally, testing takes place at the airport.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that Mr Hancock “may be looking at this further today”.
“I don’t think a final decision has been made on that, but we do keep all of this under review.”
“We’ve stopped short of having a total closure of the border at this stage. We actually think that it causes a lot of disruption but doesn’t add a huge amount.”
He also added that there is a case for doing some testing during quarantine, we already have a provision for testing to release during quarantine earlier.
“We’re obviously looking at this to see if we can strengthen these measures further.”
Leading Mr Hancock’s statement, a health department spokesperson said:
“Throughout the pandemic, the government has put in place proportionate measures, informed by the advice of scientists, that have led to some of the toughest border regimes in the world.”
It was also mentioned that it is vital that the government should proceed to take the required steps to guard the citizens and save lives.
The testing regime is set to cover all arrivals. At the same time, they will implement an advanced level of stability and allow officials to track any new cases and detect new variants brought into the country. Moreover, additional details of the mandatory quarantine procedures and enhanced testing administration will be set out soon. The government was scrutinised by Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s shadow home secretary, who tweeted,
“Yet again the UK government is lurching from one crisis to another, with no consistent strategy to secure our borders against COVID variants.”
He also mentioned that around 21,000 people are arriving in the UK every day, and a comprehensive hotel quarantine system is needed urgently.
After Downing Street announced last Thursday, Boris Johnson had appointed Mr. Hancock to supervise cross-government aims to deliver mandatory quarantine and improved testing which will help deal with the threats of novel variants of COVID-19.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said that a new cabinet sub-committee, conducted by the health and care secretary, accompanied by several senior cabinet ministers who will play an active role in presenting the policy. She also stated that the government is also working jointly with the delegated administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the changes come into effect.
However, while Home Office questions in the Commons on the eve of Mr Hancock’s statement, Ms Patel said to the MPs that the new health measures at the border are necessary to protect public health and vaccination programme. Simultaneously, many people are working on the front line, looking at the implementation of this strategy, which is based on the opinions of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and other government advisories.
UK Quarantine hotel rules in summary
- Anyone visiting from “Red Zone countries” will have to pay for their quarantine hotel (£1,750), transport plus PCR tests (£100 per test).
- Several hotels have been prepared and secured for visitors’ quarantine around airports and harbours.
- Proof of a COVID-19 test must be taken 72 hours before arrival.
- Up to £10,000 fine and 10-year jail sentences to those who break the UK quarantine restrictions and rules.