Teaching unions today blasted Boris Johnson‘s decision to start reopening schools in March as they warned that coming out of the third lockdown ‘too early’ could ultimately lead to a fourth national squeeze.
The PM told the Commons this afternoon that schools will not reopen until at least March 8, in a devastating blow for millions of children and parents struggling with balancing work and home-schooling.
Though Mr Johnson also ruled out a phased reopening of schools after the February half-term, unions are calling for an even longer closure as they claim March 8 could be too soon for getting children back into classrooms without causing a spike in Covid cases.
They jumped on the PM’s announcement fast progress was being made on vaccinations, with doses given to nearly seven million people and the NHS being on track for covering the four most vulnerable groups by February 15 – and the jabs giving them full protection three weeks after that.
Unions claimed there are ‘too many unknowns, such as the effectiveness of the vaccine and the pace at which infections are falling’ to set a March 8 deadline for reopening schools and suggested that Mr Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown would lead to failure.
They warned that the vaccination of the elderly and most vulnerable in society ‘does not protect parents’ and ‘fails completely to recognise the role schools have played in community transmission’.
And setting a date ‘runs the risk of creating false hope’, the unions added, as they hinted easing the shutdown too soon could lead to a fourth – and accusing the PM of being ‘immune to the embarrassment of U-turns’.
Teaching unions blasted Boris Johnson’s decision to get schools reopened from March 8. Pictured, pupils at the King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham in September
The PM told the Commons schools will not reopen until at least March 8, in a devastating blow for millions of children and parents struggling with balancing work and home-schooling
The announcement came after the UK’s death toll hit the grim milestone of 100,000
The announcement – which means many children face missing at least 111 days of school – came after the UK’s death toll hit the grim milestone of 100,000, with scientists claiming the victims could have been reduced by tougher government action.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: ‘If we come out too early, we will end up in lockdown again.’
‘We all want schools to open, but like the Prime Minister we want them to open when it is safe to do so. This has to be done sustainably and safely,’ she continued.
‘We agree with Boris Johnson that this is a balancing act. He has a duty to assess the easing of lockdown according to the progress and effects of vaccination, a reduction in cases and the various other criteria he has set out.
‘But in setting out a potential date of March 8, falling once again into his characteristic and too often misplaced optimism, he is pre-empting a decision that will have to be made in mid-February at the very earliest.’
The NEU added: ‘To suggest a date at this stage runs the risk of creating false hope. The Prime Minister may now be immune to the embarrassment of U-turns, but school leaders, teachers and support staff, not to mention families and students, are utterly exhausted by them.’
In other coronavirus developments:
- The EU indicated it could move to restrict export of jabs and launched a bid to have British supplies diverted to Europe;
- Tensions between AstraZeneca and the EU over stocks of jabs have ramped up with a meeting being cancelled, after it emerged the bloc signed contracts three months later than the UK;
- Ministers are unveiling details of enforced ‘quarantine hotels’ for travellers from Covid hotspots, amid claims Priti Patel wanted a tougher border shutdown;
- Nicola Sturgeon has called for a ‘comprehensive system of supervised quarantine’ for travellers arriving in the UK and said that the government’s plan ‘does not go far enough’;
- Ms Sturgeon also questioned whether the PM’s trip to Scotland this week is ‘essential’ as she said he has a ‘duty to lead by example’ and stick to the rules;
- Mr Johnson has condemned a Labour call for all teachers to be vaccinated over half-term and other key workers to be pushed up the priority list;
- Figures showed more than 30,000 care home residents in England and Wales have had Covid put on their death certificate.
A view of posters informing on social distancing and face coverings outside Beatrix Potter Primary School in Wandsworth, London on January 3
A view of a poster informing on coronavirus safety measures outside Floreat Wandsworth Primary School in Wandsworth, London on January 3
Mr Johnson has already said that he hopes to reopen schools and return to the ‘tiered’ restrictions when possible. News that work on the exit strategy is under way came after Chris Whitty said he believed the UK had reached the peak of the latest wave
Boris Johnson warns Labour plan to allow teachers to jump vaccine queue could extend lockdown
Labour demands to allow teachers to jump the coronavirus vaccination queue could force the extension of lockdown and leave vulnerable people exposed, Boris Johnson claimed today.
The Prime Minister blasted a call by Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer for all school staff to get a jab at half-term to allow classrooms to open as soon as possible.
Sir Keir called for educationalists to be bumped up the priority list for jabs organised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) amid anger at the continued closure, at Prime Minister’s Questions.
But Mr Johnson hit back in the Commons later as he officially delayed the return to school of millions of children by at least two weeks to March 8.
‘I really think the right honourable gentleman should reflect on what he is saying,’ he said.
‘Because the JCVI priority list 1-9 is designed by experts, by clinicians, to prioritise those groups who are most likely to die or to suffer from coronavirus.
‘By trying to change that and saying that he now wants to bring in other groups of public sector workers – to be decided by politicians – rather than by the JCVI, he has to explain which vaccines he would take from which vulnerable groups to make sense of his policy.
‘Because that is what the Labour proposal would involve. By making it more difficult for us to vaccinate all those vulnerable groups in the fastest possible way, that Labour route would actually delay our route out of lockdown, delay our ability to get kids back into school in the way that they want.’
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘It is no surprise that the full reopening of schools has been delayed given the grim toll of deaths and the huge pressure on the NHS.
‘Everybody agrees that getting all children back into class is vital as soon as possible, but this clearly cannot be rushed in such desperate circumstances, and we understand the government’s decision to extend the lockdown restrictions.
‘What is crucial is that the government ensures that full reopening is done in a way which is safe and sustainable, and which inspires the confidence of education staff and the public.
‘It must straighten out the confusion over the use of rapid turnaround coronavirus tests, review its guidance on safety measures for schools to make sure these are fit-for-purpose, and set out a timetable for the vaccination of education staff.’
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘The Prime Minister has stated today that the earliest the government believes it will be safe for the country to admit more pupils back to school will be March 8.
‘As the PM says, it has been a challenge for families to juggle employment and home-learning. School leaders want to see pupils back in class as soon as it is safe to do so.
‘What is clear from the Prime Minister’s statement is that there are too many unknowns, such as the effectiveness of the vaccine and the pace at which infections are falling, to put the March 8 date firmly in the diary yet.
‘The government now needs to collaborate with school leaders and their teams to make sure that there is a workable plan for lifting the lockdown.
‘It is also important that the teaching workforce is prioritised for vaccinations. This would give confidence as well as providing a better chance that once lockdown measures are lifted, children’s education is less likely to continue to be disrupted by staff absence and illness.’
Dr Patrick Roach, general-secretary of NASUWT, The Teachers’ Union, said: ‘It is essential that the national lockdown restrictions are supported fully in order to reduce the rates of virus transmission in the wider community and in order to ensure that schools can reopen fully as soon as it is safe to do so whilst minimising the risks to public health.
‘It is important that the majority of children and young people in all schools are now supported to stay at home and that teachers also work from home to provide support for children’s learning remotely.
‘Given previous experience, the announcement of arbitrary dates for schools to reopen to all pupils can be profoundly unhelpful to parents and to those working in schools.’
It comes as Mr Johnson admitted that ‘perpetual lockdown is no answer’ but also confirmed that borders are being tightened, with enforced 10-day stays in ‘quarantine hotels’ for countries on a ‘red list’ with high infection rates.
‘Dare not even tell my kids’: Angry and despairing parents hit out online after Boris Johnson’s announcement that schools will stay closed until at least March 8
Parents are fuming that Boris Johnson is keeping schools shut until at least March 8 – and are hunkering down for more weeks of arduous home schooling.
The Prime Minister today announced that pupils will not return to classrooms after the February half-term as hoped and must continue learning online.
His statement to MPs this afternoon was met with exasperation from mothers and fathers juggling the needs of their children’s remote education with their own work.
Claire Holt, a mother from Surrey, braced for the next few weeks: ‘8th of bloody March. Buckle right in with a lot of gin.’
Marina Frow, from Sheffield, tweeted: ‘Dare not even tell my kids the latest news… Close non essential shops and the rates will fall quicker. Is coffee more important than education?!’
Mr Johnson today said he empathised with the frustrations of parents grappling with home schooling and ‘the myriad other demands of their children from breakfast until bedtime’.
But he reaffirmed his commitment of reopening schools as a ‘national priority’ and said he would aim to lift the shutdown ‘when the data permits’.
Mother Lucy Smith, who has been trying to tie down her pressured job while helping six-year-old Bonnie and four-year-old Raymond with Zoom lessons, was one of those dismayed.
The property worker from West Hampsted, north London, told MailOnline: ‘It’s terrible. I’m expected to go on to Zoom at 11am every day without fail even though sometimes I have meetings.’
Parents today were left counting down the minutes until the earliest possible reopening date.
Chris Bell tweeted: ‘Only 57,300 minutes to go till the kids go back to school!’
Mother Stephanie Melrose said: ‘Parents across the UK… grab the nearest pillow to scream into.’
‘We will not persist for a day longer than necessary, but not will we relax too soon,’ he told the Commons. ‘Reopening schools will be our first priority.’
Pleading for the public to stick with his strategy, Mr Johnson said: ‘Our goal now must be to buy the extra weeks we need to immunise the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease, reclaim our lives once and for all.’
Mr Johnson has already said that he hopes to reopen schools and return to the ‘tiered’ restrictions when possible. News that work on the exit strategy is under way came after Chris Whitty said he believed the UK had reached the peak of the latest wave.
The chief medical officer said cases were falling fast – down from 68,000 cases recorded on January 7 to just over 20,000 yesterday, while the vaccine rollout is gathering speed.
However, deaths are still high as they lag behind infections – with some scientists suggesting another 50,000 could fall victim before the crisis ‘burns out’.
Professor Neil Ferguson told the BBC that if action had been taken ‘earlier and with greater stringency back in September’ then the 60,000 deaths over the past ‘four or five months’ could have been significantly reduced.
Tory MPs today urged the PM to focus on whether the NHS can cope, rather than the grim death total or high infection levels, when deciding what areas of lockdown can be eased.
Senior backbenchers pointed to the wider balance of ‘lives saved now versus lives saved later’, pointing out that ‘poverty kills’ as well as the virus.
Despite the tentative signs the outbreak is improving, scientists have warned that the victims are likely to keep racking up.
Professor Calum Semple, a member of SAGE, said Britons should be braced for more grim numbers for months to come. ‘It would really not surprise me if we’re looking at another 40,000 or 50,000 deaths before this burns out. The deaths on the way up are likely to be mirrored by the deaths on the way down,’ he told BBC Newsnight.
Prof Ferguson – known as Professor Lockdown – made clear his frustration at the speed of response from the government, suggesting deaths in the first wave could have been ‘drastically reduced by earlier action’.
On the second wave, he told the BBC last night: ‘Had we acted both earlier and with greater stringency back in September when we first saw case numbers going up, and had a policy of keeping case numbers at a reasonably low level, then I think a lot of the deaths that we’ve seen — not all by any means — but a lot of the deaths that we’ve seen in the last four or five months, could have been avoided.’
This morning Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the handling of the pandemic amid criticism that Mr Johnson acted too late to lockdown at crucial moments, stressing that there was no ‘textbook’ to dealing with the disease and ministers did ‘everything we could’ based on the knowledge they had.
But in a round of interviews, he admitted that in ‘hindsight’ there were things that could have been done differently, and accepted there will ‘come a time’ when the government’s performance will need to be assessed.
As he was battered with questions about why the UK had been hit harder than many other countries, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: ‘We took the decisions that we could at the time on the basis of the information that was available to us.
‘And we did everything that we could to protect people’s lives and help to weather the storm, and take the country through this very challenging period.
‘There is no textbook as to how to respond to a pandemic like this, but we do believe that we took the right decisions at the right time.
‘And now our focus is on continuing to help the country through the remaining stages of the pandemic and focus on the vaccine rollout.’
But in a blunt verdict, shadow health secretary said: ‘I don’t accept they did everything they could.’
Although he sounded a more optimistic tone last night, Prof Whitty urged the British public not to ease-up and begin relaxing now. He warned that case numbers, particularly those in hospital, as well as Covid death figures, remained high.
The Prime Minister meanwhile said the country would have time to ‘learn lessons, reflect and repair’ at the end of the crisis, which was now in sight thanks to the roll-out of vaccines.
And he said the nation would then come together ‘to remember everyone we lost, and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others’.
Parents are fuming that Boris Johnson is keeping schools shut until at least March 8 – and are hunkering down for more weeks of arduous home schooling
Revealed: The ‘at risk’ countries – including South Africa, Brazil and Portugal – from which returning Brits will have to quarantine for 10-days in hotels and travellers will be STOPPED from leaving UK if their travel is ‘non essential’
What countries are on the ‘red list’ for quarantine?
Democratic Republic of Congo
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
Britons returning from around 30 ‘red list’ Covid countries will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense, Priti Patel announced today.
MailOnline understands that hundreds of arrivals each day are expected to be escorted directly from airports to rooms, where they will have to stay for the duration of their isolation and pay a bill estimated at £1,500 – although ministers hope the numbers will ‘fall through the floor’ as people avoid coming to the UK.
In a statement to MPs, the Home Secretary also announced that Britons will be sent home from ports and airports if they fail to prove their trip abroad is ‘essential’, as she vowed police will ramp up enforcement on travel restrictions.
She insisted the measures would help prevent mutant Covid strains getting into the country – but they are far milder than were originally mooted.
It will only affect British travellers, as foreign citizens who have been in the countries are already banned from entering altogether.
Ms Patel herself is believed to have been pushing for a much tougher regime alongside Matt Hancock and Michael Gove, but was overruled after resistance from Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab and Grant Shapps, and warnings it would ‘kill’ the aviation industry.
The government is facing the prospect of a revolt from UK nations, with Nicola Sturgeon threatening to impose her own more brutal curbs in Scotland, and Wales saying they do not go far enough.
Labour said ministers were ‘behind the curve’ in protecting the country’s borders.
But making the case for the government in a Commons statement, Ms Patel said: ‘It is clear that there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day.
‘And today I am announcing further action to strengthen the health measures we already have at the border, but to reduce passenger flow so that only a small number of people for whom it is absolutely essential to travel are doing so and therefore reducing the risk to our world-leading vaccine programme.’
Under the push to clamp down on travel, airlines are expected to be fined if they fail to enforce non-exemptions properly after influencers were accused of ‘taking the p***’ by jetting out to Dubai, claiming their Instagram updates constituted work.
‘Even at St Pancras people have been turning up with their skis,’ Ms Patel said.
‘We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world they are in… Going on holiday is not a valid reason to travel.’
The limited Australian-style quarantine scheme follows concerns about new Covid variants entering Britain – but ignores a plea from Ms Patel and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to apply the diktat to all arrivals.
Confusingly, Boris Johnson told the House earlier that 22 countries will be on the quarantine list – but in fact the current ‘red list’ of countries from where only British nationals can come to the UK is much wider than that.
Ms Patel did not give a full roll call of the states included when she addressed MPs.
She said the government does have estimates for how many people will need to quarantine in hotels, but refused to give them. Sources said the numbers of arrivals going into the accommodation is likely to be in the hundreds to start with, but should fall quickly.
And although she suggested there is an ‘immediate’ crackdown the start date for the enforced quarantine is not clear.
Priti Patel today revealed Britons returning from more than 20 ‘red list’ Covid countries will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days
These are the daily average of cases per million people in the countries that could be on the UK quarantine list
Flagged Camps Bay beach in Cape Town, South Africa, a country certain to be on the list after a dangerous variant emrged before Christmas
A deserted Praia da Rocha Beach in Portugal yesterday where the travel industry has been decimated by Covid and will now be added to a quarantine list by the UK, one of its biggest markets
Ministers will outline plans today to force British travellers to quarantine in airport hotels, despite warnings from airline chiefs that the sector faces ruin. Pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow Airport yesterday
Holidaymakers vow to get around new quarantine rules by driving from Portugal to Spain
Britons holidaying in Portugal this winter have vowed to skip Boris Johnson’s hotel quarantine diktat by travelling home to the UK via the EU, MailOnline can reveal today.
Mr Johnson’s plans to forcibly confine travellers from 22 ‘high risk’ countries was branded ‘another omnishambles’ amid claims it can easily be bypassed by flying home via Spain or Ireland, or driving to Calais to cross the Channel.
MailOnline has previously revealed that travellers from South Africa, where a mutant strain of Covid was found before Christmas, were flowing into the UK via Paris and Amsterdam after direct flights were scrapped.
Portugal, visited by 2million Britons each year before the pandemic, is expected to be among the 22 ‘high risk’ states on the list because of rocketing infection and death rates as well as its links to Covid-ravaged Brazil.
But Britons, many of whom have second homes on the Algarve, are already planning to bypass the rules. There are currently no direct flights between the UK and Portugal.
Ken Browne tweeted: ‘If you want to escape highly expensive hotel quarantine, just cross from Portugal into Spain and travel from there. It’s another omnishambles’. Paul Snape wrote: Won’t everyone just go via a different country? U could drive from Portugal into Spain, get on a flight and get into the country without quarantine’.
Tahir Habib said: ‘I know friends planning to come from Portugal via France! You either quarantine everyone coming into the UK from all countries or no one. Plenty of alternative routes back’. One BBC listener told Radio 2 today they planned to travel back to the UK by flying to Dublin and then to Stansted to avoid paying £1,500 for ten days in a hotel.
At PMQs this afternoon, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government had ‘failed’ by being ‘too slow’ to bring it in and claiming that quarantining arrivals from 22 countries ‘doesn’t go far enough’.
Passengers arriving in Britain from any of the listed countries will have to isolate for 10 days in hotels near airports and pay around £1,500 for the privilege.
Boris Johnson told the Commons: ‘I want to make clear that under the stay at home regulations, it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel.
‘We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
‘And in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that 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.
‘They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.’
The ‘test and release’ scheme, which allows travellers to leave quarantine if they have a negative Covid test on the fifth day in isolation, cannot be used for countries on the ‘red list’, so is unaffected by the changes.
Scores of influencers and millionaires have fled to Dubai to lounge in luxury hotels during lockdown.
Laura Anderson, Molly-Mae Hague, Maura Higgins, Amber Davies, Georgia Harrison and Kady McDermott were among those to jet off before the third national lockdown.
Expats working in Dubai and following the rules have accused them of ‘taking the f***ing p***’ by claiming they are in the city for work, and risking spreading the virus by partying and flouting social distancing.
MailOnline has also been inundated with emails from people in Spain, the USA, Canada, Pakistan and South America worried that they may be caught up in the new quarantine scheme and admitting they may rush home to avoid it.
Yesterday it was revealed private flights into a Dubai airport soared by 78 per cent at the end of last year compared to 2019, as travellers, including Love Island stars, rushed to escape lockdown and spend Christmas there.
The quarantine plans split the cabinet with Ms Patel backing a total travel ban that would close Britain’s borders.
But Mr Shapps and Mr Raab have been arguing strongly for any decision on whether to widen the list to be delayed.
Angry expats tell MailOnline: British influencers in Dubai to dodge lockdown are ‘taking the f***ing p***’
Expats in Dubai have told MailOnline they are furious about the number of celebrity influencers coming to the city ‘for work’.
Dubai had been an ideal choice for many as visitors at the time weren’t required to quarantine upon their return to the UK.
Many stars have insisted their trips are for ‘work’ with the government asking UK residents to avoid unnecessary travel.
One expat told MailOnline: ‘They’re taking the f***ing p***’.
Lauren Morgan, who moved to the city with her husband in January 2020, said: ‘All the ‘influencers’ coming out to Dubai for ‘work’ has made me so angry, using loop holes to holiday and potentially spreading the virus. Especially as they’re all partying in ridiculous circumstances where social distancing isn’t being observed and rules are not being followed by people from the UK (and I’m sure many others) who have not had to follow the same strict rules as we have in Dubai since March 2020 and is now a way of life to wear a mask and keep your distance and minimise socialising/large group gatherings’.
Yesterday the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Covid operations committee – which includes participants from the Home Office, the Department of Transport and the Foreign Office – to put the seal on the decision.
Many stars have insisted their trips are for ‘work’ with the government asking UK residents to avoid unnecessary travel.
An agent, whose client had travelled to Dubai, told the Mirror earlier this month: ‘We manage their social media accounts and I’ve seen a number of death threats in direct messages.
‘It’s been relentless. We warned them not to travel abroad while a lot of the nation is under severe restrictions as it’s a terrible look, but they ignored it.’
Travel chiefs warned quarantine hotels could ‘decimate’ the beleaguered sector.
Airline bosses wrote to Mr Johnson warning firms could go bust and tens of thousands of jobs lost if summer holidays are cancelled for a second year.
The letter was signed by easyJet chief Johan Lundgren, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss, British Airways boss Sean Doyle, Jet2 CEO Steve Heapy and David Burling, CEO of markets and airlines for package holiday giant Tui.
They called for an ‘urgent roadmap for the reopening of air travel’ as vaccines are rolled out and life begins returning to normal.
They said Britain already has ‘some of the toughest border restrictions on international arrivals anywhere in the world’.
And they hit out at ministers for failing to share any ‘compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced’.
The letter follows a string of announcements on restrictions at borders, including passengers needing proof of a pre-flight negative Covid-19 test and the scrapping of the ‘travel corridor’ safe list of countries.
Who will be forced to quarantine and can I upgrade my hotel room? Vital questions about the Government’s new Australia-style scheme
Who will be forced to quarantine in hotels?
As a first step, British travellers returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected, such as Brazil and South Africa, will be forced to isolate for ten days in airport hotels.
Foreign nationals are already banned from entering the UK from these places. The Government is looking at widening the hotel quarantine requirement to all arrivals at airports and ports from everywhere around the world, but wants to pilot the process with a smaller group of people first.
Boris Johnson yesterday gathered ministers to sign off on the plans with a decision expected today.
What will happen on arrival?
Travellers who face enforced quarantine will be taken by bus to a hotel where they will have to remain for ten days.
Officials have begun talks with hotel groups about block-booking rooms that can be used for isolating.
In Australia, people are required to stay in their room the entire time with security guards patrolling the corridors. Hotel staff are forbidden from cleaning the rooms during a person’s stay.
British travellers returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected must isolate for ten days in airport hotels
Can you upgrade your hotel?
Travellers will not get a choice of hotel. In Australia, people do not know in advance where they will be staying and are warned there is no guarantee of access to a balcony or open window.
What are you supposed to do all day?
In Australia, exercise outside is not allowed so guests are encouraged to do stretches or yoga in their room.
A guide given to travellers to help prepare for hotel isolation suggests planning different activities to break up the day. Examples given include getting in contact with different friends and family, learning a foreign language on a mobile phone app, trying out a new hobby such as knitting and calligraphy, and catching up on ‘life admin’.
The advice recommends planning ‘rewards’ to look forward to such as a phone call with a loved one or the delivery of a treat. People sharing rooms with partners and family members are encouraged to set ground rules for the stays such as scheduling a time each day when everyone does a ‘quiet’ activity to help avoid disagreements.
Last summer an outbreak of coronavirus in Melbourne was blamed on security guards having sex with guests at one of the quarantine hotels.
Who pays the hotel bill?
The Government will arrange transport for travellers to their accommodation, but they will have to cover the cost of their hotel room, estimated to be about £1,500. The cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel is £1,692 for an adult in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand.
The ban does not include British and Irish nationals, longer-term visa holders and permanent residents, who are required to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.
The airline chiefs pointed out that the aviation industry supports about 1.56million jobs and contributes £88.8billion to the economy, or about 4.5 per cent of UK GDP.
They added: ‘With each day the UK is isolated from the world, causing untold economic damage, both to the UK’s essential aviation infrastructure – its airlines, airports and ground handlers – but also to those businesses that depend on the UK’s connectivity within a global economy.’
The industry is calling for a ‘bespoke support package’, saying measures up until now have been inadequate. They say business rates relief can currently amount to as little as 4 per cent for larger operators such as Heathrow.
Separately, the World Travel and Tourism Council warned shutting down UK borders further could wipe out more than £548million from the UK economy every day. The travel industry is ending its worst January on record in terms of forward bookings.
It comes as a government source told MailOnline the decisions on the quarnantine plan will ‘go down to the wire’, adding: ‘The meeting will be where the decision is taken. It’s not just rubber stamping.’
They also cautioned that some of those coming in might not be able to pay for their own hotel stay, and there might need to be means-tested support.
‘There’s a problem with Brits with not a lot of money … you can see it coming like a slow motion steamroller.’
It came as Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was ‘too early’ to book a summer holiday abroad – but some anxious Britons took to social media to admit the warning came too late, with some having bought flights for as early as the half-term holidays in mid-February.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel company The PC Agency, said: ‘This is destroying confidence among holidaymakers. People are not booking summer holidays because they don’t believe there is an end game which will see these blanket measures removed.
‘This is a sure-fire way of destroying Britain’s aviation and travel industries. The Government needs to signal that they will withdraw the hotel quarantine rules by the end of March and return to a system of quarantining arrivals from high-risk areas only.’
In a joint statement, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK insisted the country already has ‘some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world’ and that introducing tougher rules would be ‘catastrophic’. ABTA has urged all its travel agent members to lobby MPs in a bid to convince Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to agree a multi-billion pound cash bailout for the industry.
A small number of Britons say they are now stuck in Spain and the Canary Islands, where the usually bustling beaches and promenades were largely deserted, as experts fear Mr Johnson’s quarantine plan could bankrupt Britain’s already ailing tourism industry.
And photographs from some of Europe’s most popular resorts, including Benidorm, show its beaches are deserted with bar and restaurant owners telling MailOnline they will go bust if the Brits don’t visit this year.
Stuey Lee Lewis, 70, owner of the Geordie Bar Tat in Benidorm’s Rincon area, said: ‘Things are really bad. We had locals in but we can’t survive on locals, we need the Brits. I know they’re missing our home-cooked chips, a cold beer and our sun terrace’. Expat Terence Burgess, 74, told MailOnline: ‘I was in Benidorm last week and there wasn’t a soul about. It was very sad to see. I went to my favourite karaoke bar to sing and I was the only one in there’.
The quarantine measures will lead to a slew of cancellations and people will not book summer breaks in yet another economic hammer blow to holiday firms and airlines, particularly if, as feared, the travel restrictions stretch into the peak season. Industry leaders have called for a better sector-specific bailout package from the Chancellor.
But the Prime Minister last night said he wanted ‘maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad’ to prevent new coronavirus variants jeopardising the vaccination programme.
At a meeting of the Covid-O committee at 6pm this evening, Cabinet ministers will consider making it compulsory for all travellers to quarantine at hotels, regardless of their nationality and where they come from. A formal announcement on the agreed scheme may not come until tomorrow.
One government source told MailOnline the decisions on the detail would ‘go down to the wire’. The meeting will be where the decision is taken. It’s not just rubber stamping.’
Boris Johnson (pictured today) will impose Australian-style quarantine scheme, which is being introduced following concerns about new Covid variants. Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer says limiting it to arrivals from 22 countries ‘doesn’t go far enough’.
Sheridan Mordew, 24, from Sunderland, arrived in Dubai on January 2, just a few days before the third national lockdown
Many stars have insisted their trips are for ‘work’ with the government asking UK residents to avoid unnecessary travel. Pictured: Geordie Shore’s Sophie Kasaei in Dubai
A health worker standing next to an ambulance at Santa Maria Hospital Lisbon as the pandemic in Portugal worsened
Arrivals from South America, Portugal and many countries in southern Africa – areas affected by deadly new strains – are expected to be told to isolate for 10 days in hotels near airports (pictured: The Best Western hotel at Heathrow)
Government sources say people will have to pay for the cost of their stay – perhaps as much as £1,500. Pictured: The Holiday Inn at Heathrow
Private flights to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub (MBRAH) in Dubai soared by 78% in the last three months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019
Change your own bed sheets and meals dropped by your door: Best Western chief reveals grim Covid protocols faced by travellers forced to quarantine in airport hotels for up to £1,500
A large room at the Best Western – Chiswick Palace Hotel
British travellers arriving back from high-risk coronavirus hotspots will be made to change their own bed sheets and eat meals in their rooms in an ‘entirely contactless and sterile experience’ as they are forced to quarantine in airport hotels.
Boris Johnson yesterday signed off on plans to toughen border controls by putting new arrivals into isolation, at their own expense – with a ten-day stay costing up to £1,500.
Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western hotels group, said the industry was ready to assist protocols of quarantining international arrivals, which would see guests confined to their rooms, with three meals delivered each day to their doors.
He said the franchise could mobilise hotels for quarantining travellers returning to the UK, with 5,000 rooms ready ‘within 24 to 48 hours’ and said it would be an ‘entirely contactless and sterile experience’.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live hotels will operate a one-way system, with travellers checking in via a contactless system before being escorted to their room by a staff member in PPE. They then remain there for ten days, with CCTV cameras in corridors to ensure no one breaks the rules.
‘We deliver three meals per day to the door which the occupant comes out and collects those meals and then cleaning is clean sheets and towels waiting outside the room for the person to safely dispose of their previous sheets and change their own to keep the safety and infection protocols high’, he said.
They also cautioned that some of those coming in might not be able to pay for their own hotel stay, and there might need to be means-tested support. ‘There’s a problem with Brits with not a lot of money… You can see it coming like a slow motion steamroller,’ the source said.
Passengers arriving into Heathrow Airport have faced chaos for days as they were forced to queue for hours to get through passport control. Pictures of crowds at passport control have become common, raising fears that the lack of social distancing could easily spread Covid.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi warned that the country needs to be ‘very careful’ as new strains emerge, and said an announcement on the quarantine plans would be made later.
He told Sky News on Tuesday: ‘There will be an announcement on this issue later on today, so I can only say to you that it is the right thing to do, because I am the Vaccines Minister, that as we vaccinate more of the adult population, if there are new variants like the South African or the Brazilian variants, we need to be very careful.
‘We acted on those very quickly and of course dealt with travel from those countries, and from Portugal and elsewhere, rapidly so it is important we continue to review our border policy and an announcement will be made when a decision has been taken.
‘And of course the industry itself will be engaged with heavily, including (Health Secretary) Matt Hancock engaging with the industry to explain the decision making at health, as well as of course the business department with the Business Secretary.’
Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposals might need to go further than applying only to those arriving from countries where new variants of Covid-19 have been discovered.
Pressed on whether he supports a universal approach to quarantining international arrivals, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it is a big logistical exercise to do that and it is not going to be possible to do it overnight anyway.
‘But I think the real question is buying us enough time, and we don’t know which countries these variants are arising in. We have much better genomic sequencing in this country than in most other countries – in fact, any other country – so we are better at tracing these things than other places.
‘But I think we just have to be very cautious, because if we can get this vaccine distribution up to sufficient levels, we can really cut down the transmission in this country and transform the battle against the virus.
‘If we do have to go further, I hope it would only have to be for a temporary period.’
The Government has reportedly held talks with Marriott and Holiday Inn about using their hotels while Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western hotels group, said the hotel industry was ready to assist if the Government did opt for a policy of quarantining international arrivals.
Who could be exempt from hotel quarantine?
Under the Government’s current border rules some people do not have to adhere to self-isolation requirements.
It is not yet clear if these exemptions would be carried over should ministers press ahead with hotel quarantine.
The current exemptions include:
Aerospace engineers who need to take a test but do not have to self-isolate.
Aircraft pilots and crew who do not need to take a test and do not have to self-isolate.
BBC broadcasters who do have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate. A blanket exemption for all journalists ceased on January 18.
Medicine workers who do have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate.
Crown servants or government contractors who do not need to self-isolate if they are travelling for essential work.
Drivers of goods vehicles who do not need to present a negative test prior to departure and who do not need to self-isolate.
Elite sportspersons who do have to have to take a test but do not need to self-isolate.
None of the above exemptions are valid for travel from countries which are currently subject to a travel ban.
Describing what life will be like for guests paying around £100-a-night: ‘We deliver three meals per day to the door which the occupant comes out and collects those meals and then cleaning is clean sheets and towels waiting outside the room for the person to safely dispose of their previous sheets and change their own to keep the safety and infection protocols high’.
He added: ‘There are thousands of rooms across the United Kingdom at the moment with many empty beds – we would be prepared to support Government on that front’.
The quarantine scheme is already used around the world including in Australia, Singapore and Norway, where some guests have described being stuck in dirty rooms for almost a fortnight being fed disgusting food.
Others who have been through the process abroad have suggested that guests must fill their suitcases with a ‘survival kit’ of healthy snacks, decent coffee and tea, their own crockery and cutlery as well as washing up liquid, detergent for clothes and a laptop packed with downloaded boxsets – or face pure misery.
Arrivals will be taken by bus to the accommodation where they stay at their own expense for ten days under the supervision of security guards.
Government sources last night said the enforced quarantine regime will be introduced for British nationals returning from high-risk countries where new strains of the virus have been detected, such as South Africa and Brazil. Foreign nationals are already barred from entering the UK from these countries.
Ministers will then look to widen the compulsory hotel quarantine requirement to cover more travellers.
Officials warned it will be ‘logistically challenging’ to put the system in place and it could take as long as three weeks to get it up and running. Concerns have been raised that there are only 10,000 hotel rooms close to London’s Heathrow airport.
About 8,000 people are still arriving there every day, although this number would be expected to plummet once the new restrictions are introduced.
The plan to require arrivals to go into isolation at airport hotels is modelled on Australia, where the cost of 14 days in quarantine is £1,692.
It is estimated that travellers entering the UK could be charged about £1,500 for a ten-night stay. The travel industry has warned that the added cost would destroy holiday plans.
Rob Paterson, chief executive of Best Western hotels group, said the hotel industry was ready to assist if the Government did opt for a policy of quarantining international arrivals.
A deserted Levante beach in Benidorm on Tuesday as the Government urged Britons not to book summer holidays in yet another blow for struggling airlines and holiday companies
The beautiful Playa de Amadores in Grand Canaria was also similarly quiet this morning
The sunny strip in Benidorm on Spain’s Mediterranean coast is hugely popular but was empty of tourists on Tuesday morning
The beach in Santa Cruz in Tenerife was also quiet on Tuesday afternoon
Travellers have cancelled their foreign holidays – or had it done for them – as the new quarantine rules are set to be imposed
Arrivals, such as those at Heathrow (pictured: Arrivals at Heathrow) will be taken by bus to the accommodation where they stay at their own expense for ten days under the supervision of security guards
People infected with Kent coronavirus variant are MORE likely to get symptoms than those who catch older strains, ONS report reveals – but they are less likely to lose smell and taste
People infected with the Kent coronavirus variant are more likely to get symptoms than those who have caught older strains but are less likely to lose their smell and taste, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Data from the ONS revealed today that 53 per cent of people in England who tested positive with the variant reported Covid-19 symptoms such as cough, fatigue and fever, compared to 48 per cent of people with other variants.
The number-crunching body found that the largest differences in reported symptoms between the new variant and older stains were cough, sore throat, fatigue and muscle ache myalgia which is caused by a viral infection.
All symptoms were equally or more likely among people with the Kent variant except for a loss of taste and smell, which is considered to be one of the tell-tale signs of the virus.
The ONS report also found that there was no significant difference in people experiencing shortness of breath, nausea vomiting or headaches between people who had tested positive with the mutation or novel strain.
Figures showed that 19 per cent of those who tested positive with the UK variant had a loss of smell and taste in comparison to other strains, among which it was 22 per cent.
The Government last week revealed that scientists think the Kent variant may be more deadlier than the previous dominant version of the virus, and it is already known to be more infectious by around 30 to 70 per cent.
The Kent strain now makes up around 60 per cent of all cases in England, according to separate ONS testing figures.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that, while he had not held conversations with ministers about the proposals, the sector was ‘familiar and accustomed to managing Covid-positive customers in our hotels’.
Mr Paterson added: ‘From the hotels’ perspective, we would have to treat each of these customers as Covid-positive, so we would have to have strong infection control and protocols around security in the hotel to ensure we can deliver safely.’
Asked whether the protocols would see guests confined to their rooms, he replied: ‘Yes, it does. And that is exactly how our protocols work today. We deliver three meals per day to the door which the occupant comes out and collects those meals and then cleaning is clean sheets and towels waiting outside the room for the person to safely dispose of their previous sheets and change their own to keep the safety and infection protocols high.
‘Hotels stand ready to support the authorities on the strategy and I guess it is the authorities’ responsibility and their burden to present the evidence and the practicalities behind the strategy.
‘But from a practical point of view at the hotels, there are thousands of rooms across the United Kingdom at the moment with many empty beds – we would be prepared to support Government on that front.’
Heathrow said a blanket requirement for travellers to quarantine in hotels would effectively be ‘the closure of our borders’ and lead to ‘huge ramifications for Britain and its aviation sector’.
A spokesman for the airport said the industry was ‘already on its knees’, adding: ‘The Chancellor must finally deliver on his promise of a comprehensive financial support package for UK aviation, made some ten months ago.
‘It is completely unacceptable that an industry worst hit has watched on as others, fortunate to experience a boom in profits and no restrictions, have been afforded unnecessary financial support as we remain ignored.’
Heathrow is calling for measures including business rates relief for airports.
The Airport Operators’ Association and Airlines UK warned an enforced quarantine regime would be ‘catastrophic’ and demanded an exit strategy. Shares in airlines fell sharply yesterday.
In a joint statement, the industry bodies said: ‘We have fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic, but policy should be based on evidence and there must be a roadmap out of these restrictions as soon as it is safe.’
Ministers in Northern Ireland are expected to discuss the issue of quarantine at a Stormont Executive meeting on Tuesday.
There is no direct route into Wales for international travellers at present, but a Welsh Government spokesman said they expected to discuss the plans with the UK Government in more detail.
Direct flights to the UK from South Africa, Brazil and Portugal have already been suspended, but British residents have been permitted to return through indirect routes and then self-isolate at home.
Australia became one of the first countries to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine in March, while the practice is also observed in China, New Zealand, India, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Qatar and Thailand.
New rush to book staycations: Family Easter breaks already cost a FORTUNE as price of rental cottages, Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins soar by up to 325% – now the race is on for summer holidays
British families planning an Easter staycation are facing soaring prices of rental cottages with some coming in at three times higher than a fortnight earlier.
Center Parcs, Haven and Butlins have all hiked their prices for Easter as they plan to reopen in March despite concerns that the national lockdown will still be in place.
But Britons desperate for some respite from the coronavirus crisis are looking closer to home as fears mount over the future of foreign holidays this summer.
At Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, a two-bed Woodland Lodge for seven nights from March 19 for £978, while from April 2 it is £2,498 – a rise of £1,520 or 155 per cent
At Butlins Bognor Regis, a Gold Apartment for four people is on offer for a week from March 19 for £318, but £1,353 from April 2 – an increase of £1,035 or 325 per cent
It comes as passengers arriving in England from high-risk coronavirus hotspots look set to be made to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new variants.
The Prime Minister discussed the proposals – designed to ensure people follow self-isolation rules – with senior ministers at the ‘Covid Operations’ committee yesterday.
Holiday price hikes at Butlins, Center Parcs and Haven sites
(These figures were found on Tuesday for a family of four staying for four nights)
BUTLINS – BOGNOR REGIS
Gold Apartment; 2-bed, sleeps four
- March 19 – £318
- April 2 – £1,353
- Difference: £1,035 – 325%
- July 12 – £1,048
- July 26 – £1,701
- Difference: £653 – 62%
CENTER PARCS – WOBURN FOREST
Woodland Lodge; 2-bed; sleeps four
- March 19 – £978
- March 29 – £2,498
- Difference: £1520 – 155%
- July 12 – £1,608
- August 2 – £2,178
- Difference: £570 – 35%
HAVEN – RIVIERE SANDS
Standard caravan; 2-bed, sleeps four
- March 19 – £186
- April 2 – £502
- Difference: £316 – 170%
- July 12 – £623
- July 26 – £1,218
- Difference: £595 – 96%
Holiday operators regularly hike prices for Easter to make the most of high demand, but this year it seems extremely high compared to a few weeks before.
At Butlins Bognor Regis in Somerset for example, a Gold Apartment for four people is on offer for a week from March 19 for £318, but £1,353 from April 2 – an increase of £1,035 or 325 per cent.
The same room is available for a week from July 12 for £1,048 – rising to £1,701 from July 26, after the summer holidays start, an increase of £653 or 62 per cent.
Meanwhile at Center Parcs in Woburn Forest, Bedfordshire, a two-bed Woodland Lodge for seven nights from March 19 for £978, while from April 2 it is £2,498 – a rise of £1,520 or 155 per cent.
The same accommodation at the site for seven nights this summer is £1,608 from July 12 or £2,178 from July 26 – an increase of £570 or 35 per cent.
As for Haven, a standard caravan for seven nights at its Riviere Sands resort in Cornwall is on sale from March 19 for £186 or from April 2 for £502 – a rise of £316 or 170 per cent.
Looking ahead to summer, the same property for the same time length is £623 from July 12 or £1,218 from July 26 – a difference of £595 or 96 per cent.
There are also fears prices could rise further if the VAT cut for hospitality and staycation accommodation from 20 to 5 per cent ends as planned on March 31.
As for Airbnb, a cottage in Portesham, Devon, is going for £737 for seven nights from March 20, but £889 from April 3 – a difference of £152 or 21 per cent.
A barn via the same website in Helston, Cornwall, is up for £973 for a week from March 20, or £1,068 from March 3 – a difference of £95 or 10 per cent.
Meanwhile a survey found most Britons have come to terms with not going abroad in the foreseeable future, with only 12 per cent planning to do so.
The figures haven’t moved much from summer and autumn last year. They peaked in July when 17 per cent of people planned to go abroad.
The polling by YouGov found younger people are still more likely to say they’re going on holiday abroad.
One in six 18-24-year-olds (16 per cent) said they had plans to do so, compared with 9 per cent of those aged 65 and older.
But the number of people hoping to enjoy a domestic trip in the next six months is lower now (29 per cent) compared with in July (45 per cent) last year.
It comes as passengers arriving in England from high-risk coronavirus hotspots look set to be made to quarantine in hotels to limit the spread of new variants.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi warned that the country needs to be ‘very careful’ as new strains emerge, and said an announcement on the quarantine plans would be made later.
Despite reports suggesting it could take up to three weeks to implement the policy – partly due to the logistical challenge of arranging accommodation for thousands of arrivals – the head of a major hotel chain said they could mobilise ‘within 24 to 48 hours’.
At Haven, a standard caravan for seven nights at its Riviere Sands resort in Cornwall is on sale from March 19 for £186 or from April 2 for £502 – a rise of £316 or 170 per cent
A survey byYouGov found most Britons have come to terms with not going abroad in the foreseeable future, with only 12 per cent planning to do so
Various options for quarantining arrivals are said to be on the table, but Whitehall sources suggested that ministers may opt for a more limited system after aviation leaders warned that introducing tougher border rules would be ‘catastrophic’ for the industry.
In a joint statement, the Airport Operators Association and Airlines UK insisted the country already has ‘some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world’ and that introducing tougher rules would be ‘catastrophic’.
Reports have suggested that arrivals in England would have to cover the price of quarantining in hotels for 10 days, potentially setting them back more than £1,000.
It is understood that the requirement to isolate in a hotel would apply to arrivals from most of southern Africa and South America, as well as Portugal.
However, Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the proposals might need to go further than applying only to those arriving from countries where new variants of Covid-19 have been discovered.
— to www.dailymail.co.uk