BRITS' summer holidays to sunshine destinations were handed a glimmer of hope as Ministers opted to impose strict hotel quarantine on high risk destinations.
The new measures, imposed to stop the spread of potential vaccine-busting Covid mutations, are set to be introduced on nations where new strains have emerged.
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It means strict isolation rules, which will see returning passengers fork out around £1,500 for a ten-day stay in a hotel, will only apply to countries already on a travel ban list.
It’s understood it will include South Africa and Brazil where new strains have emerged, alongside Portugal, and the Cape Verde Islands.
But it means summer holiday favourites, like Spain, France and Greece will be exempt.
The targeted approach was favoured by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Home Secretary Priti Patel had been pushing for a blanket ban, with all travellers forced into quarantine hotels.
The Home Secretary is expected to announce the full details to MPs on Wednesday.
Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Shadow Home Secretary said the plan “is leaving gaping holes in our nation’s defences against different strains of the virus emerging around the world.”
He added: "The proposals are half-baked, slow at being implemented and risk being ineffective at this crucial moment in our race to get Britain vaccinated.
“Labour is calling for a comprehensive hotel quarantine for all arrivals to secure us against new strains.”
What guests could expect
Measures that may be introduced
- Could cost up to £1,500 per person
- Police escort to hotel
- No visitors
- Three meals a day delivered to their door
- Private security supervising rooms
- CCTV watching those isolating
- Designated outside time
Visitors flying to Australia or New Zealand already have to quarantine in hotels for two weeks.
Police escorts and military personnel are used to guard the makeshift quarantine sites.
Some travellers quarantining in Australian hotels have complained about the food and compared it to airline meals.
Travellers arriving in the UK are likely to be taken by bus to hotels, where they will remain until they stay out their quarantine.
Chief executive of Best Western hotels group Rob Paterson said guests would be confined to their rooms, with no visitors andthree meals delivered every day to the doors.
Speaking yesterday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the UK reviews its border policy "like any other responsible country," adding Germany and Canada took action on travel in January.
He told Sky News: "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."
Asked if people should hold off on booking a summer holiday, Mr Zahawi replied: "Absolutely."
He added: "I think it's far too early.
That idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing that we’re actively looking at
"There's still 37,000 people in hospital with COVID at the moment, it's far too early for us to even speculate about the summer."
Experts fear families faced forking out at least £1,000 to be “imprisoned” in UK hotels once they returned, effectively putting paid to foreign hols.
Ministers have met to sign off the plans aimed at stopping new mutant strains entering our shores.
Boris Johnson said: “We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country, from re-infection from abroad.
"So that idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing that we’re actively looking at.
“We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad.”
In the meantime, the new foreign travel rules are likely to make it impossible for families to plan or book their holidays.
Travel experts said they feared the quarantine system could last for a year as it has in Australia.
Paul Charles,chief executive of The PC Agency, said: “There is a real fear within the industry that this could last for a year.
"It’s not just a short-term fix, and like Australia this could go on for some time and cut Britain off from the rest of the world.”
Airline shares tumbled after senior ministers appeared to confirm the new restrictions. Gloria Guevara, head of World Travel & Tourism Council begged the government to reconsider.
She said: “We implore the UK government to rethink the introduction of these extreme and sweeping border measures. WTTC is in no doubt they would destroy the UK travel and tourism sector as we know it.”
Heathrow bosses said it would be “effectively the closure of our borders”.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I think it is incredibly important that we are cautious at the border.”
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