A leading industry commentator has slammed the government’s hotel quarantine plans as “wrong” and warned the list of ‘high-risk’ destinations will grow.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel PR company the PC Agency, said: “The concern is the high-risk list will start expanding. We’re going to see more countries added, the list get longer and edge towards blanket quarantine.”

The government plans to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals from ‘high-risk’ destinations from February 15.

These destinations comprised the whole of South America, Portugal and southern Africa when the plans were first announced last week.

But the UAE, Rwanda and Burundi were then added, leading to the cancellation of 78 services a week to the UAE and a wholesale return of UK citizens before the hotel quarantine measures come into force.

Speaking at a Travlaw online Big Tent Event, Charles said: “I’m worried we’ll end up like last summer when the government announced the travel corridors and then repeatedly changed them. Confidence is highly fragile.”

He said: “Hotel quarantine as a policy is wrong. We’re not like Australia and New Zealand. We’re much more closely connected to our neighbours.

“It would be better for the government to stick to the policy it announced only the week before. The government should have put more resources into 100% home quarantine.”

However, he also insisted: “The vaccination programme is rolling out according to plan. Infection rates will start to come down. When we hit spring, the weather will be warmer, people will be outside and rates will come down further. There will be a lot more hope.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his decision to restrict hotel quarantine and a ban on flights to high-risk destinations this week against opposition calls for a blanket shutdown of travel.

He insisted: “We have one of the toughest regimes in the world.

“It is illegal to go on holiday. It is illegal to travel from all the countries on the current ‘red list’, and we will be going forward with a plan to ensure people coming into this country from ‘red list’ countries have to go into government-mandated quarantine hospitality.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps went further when he appeared before the Transport Select Committee of MPs, saying: “If the scientists say we must close borders, we would do it. I’m not saying this could never happen.

“The important thing is we try to do everything we can to prevent mutations coming in.”