Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed arrivals from 22 destinations including Portugal will be subject to quarantine in hotels.
The Prime Minister also issued a warning to anyone seeking to travel for leisure during the current lockdown. But he promised to produce “a plan for taking the country out of lockdown” by the week of February 22.
Johnson told MPs: “We must take additional steps to strengthen our borders.”
He noted: “It is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports.”
In order to reduce the risk of importing variants of the Covid-19 virus into Britain, he said restrictions would be extended on arrivals from Southern Africa, South America and Portugal with compulsory quarantine in hotels.
Johnson noted that direct flights from the 22 destinations affected are already suspended but that some travellers continue to seek entry.
He said: “We will require all arrivals who cannot be refused entry to be isolated in hotels for 10 days, without exception.”
The measure will apply to UK nationals arriving from these countries, who will have to pay for their hotel stay.
No test-to-release option
They will be taken directly from the airport to the designated hotel and there will be no test-to-release facility available to reduce the 10-day quarantine.
Johnson said the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, would provide full details of the requirements.
He insisted: “These measures will not persist a day longer than necessary.”
Johnson added: “We should know by mid-February how successful the current restrictions have been. We will then be in a better position to chart a way out of lockdown.
“When Parliament returns from recess in the week of February 22 we intend to set out the results of our review and publish a plan for taking the country out of lockdown.”
But he noted it would depend on the state of the pandemic and said: “Re-opening schools must be our first priority.”
Call for aviation support
Responding to the announcement, Henry Smith MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation, said: “The latest restrictions on international travel are a necessary move.”
But he added: “The case for a comprehensive package of financial support measures for the aviation, travel and tourism industries is irrefutable and must be delivered without further delay.
“It is essential the Government work with the industry not only to get them through the next few weeks and months, but to agree a pathway for the reopening of international travel when it is safe to do so.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) also suggested the government should turn its attention to planning a pathway towards safely re-opening international travel.
BAR UK chief executive Dale Keller said “An expensive 10-day stay in a hotel not of your choice is distressing. We support [the fact] that the government has specifically targeted this extreme measure to eligible returning passengers from the 22 travel ban countries.”
But he said: “The aviation sector is struggling with the depth and duration of this crisis and we can only hope that we have now reached rock bottom.
“Now is the time to support the sector and to plan a strategic pathway towards the safe re-opening of international travel in conjunction with the industry.”
Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive Julia Lo Bue-Said said: “We accept tighter border controls if that is what is necessary to keep the country safe.
“What we do not accept are ill-thought through statements from ministers over the past few days telling the British public not to even think about booking future travel plans, particularly when there are many extremely flexible booking options.”
She asked: “Why do members of the government feel it is their place to further crush confidence.
“The government continually fails to acknowledge the number of jobs sustained by the outbound travel industry.”
Lo Bue-Said noted: “Our members represent hundreds of business owners across the UK under immense financial pressure, with over 50% unable to benefit from government grants.
“We need government to support the industry, extend furlough until the autumn, stop making ill-informed off the cuff comments and allow the British public to make their own judgement on future plans to travel once it’s safe to do so.”
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