The Government’s new hotel quarantine rules has led to a dramatic drop in those flying from ‘red list’ countries into the UK, i can reveal.
Since the quarantine rules came into force on Monday only just over 200 people have booked into airport hotels, compared to around 1,400 people arriving each day from the 33 red list nations to English airports last week.
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The plunge in figures comes as a “huge relief” to ministers who were concerned whether the last-minute rush to implement the new rules would lead to scenes of huge non-socially distanced queues at English airports.
One Government adviser, who regularly attends ministerial meetings on the UK’s pandemic response, also revealed that one flight due in from Turkey in Heathrow had been expected to bring 100 passengers who would have been required to quarantine in a hotel, but that only three had decided to travel.
Speaking on Tuesday evening, the source said: “There was around just 100 passengers requiring hotel quarantine on Monday and we’re expecting around the same today [Tuesday].
“It a big relief to Government as if it continues like this it may well turn out they booked enough hotel rooms despite the last-minute scramble for them.”
The Government has struck deals with 16 hotels so far, providing 4,963 rooms, with a further 58,000 rooms currently on standby.
As flights from any of the 33 red list countries – which include Portugal, Brazil and South Africa – are banned, people travelling from one are forced to stop off in countries such as Turkey before flying on to the UK.
Lucy Moreton of Border Force union the ISU confirmed there had been “a very significant reduction” in people travelling from the high-risk countries but added there remains some difficulties at airports despite the low numbers.
Ms Moreton said: “Because there’s been so few it’s gone reasonably well. But there were about the fact that quarantine travellers are not separated, so they mixed with non-quarantining travellers all the way through the airport.”
Travellers to English airports are thought to have been put off by the cost of a 10-day stay in a quarantine hotel. They have to pre-book and pay £1,750 to spend 10 days in Government-sanctioned hotels. The cost covers the hotel stay, transport and testing.
The new regulations, which aim to stop Covid variants entering the country, apply to arrivals who have been in one of those places in the past 10 days.
In Scotland, the rule to stay in a hotel applies to travellers arriving directly by air from all countries outside the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands – rather than just those from the list of 33 countries listed in England.
Wales has no hotel quarantine rules, but people returning to Wales from abroad via English airports must pay for coronavirus tests before they travel and have to pay to quarantine in a hotel in England before travelling on into Wales.
The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment.
— to inews.co.uk