UK quarantine hotels: how do they work and what do the new rules mean for holidays?

Britons returning to the UK from 33 countries will have to pay for hotel quarantine from Monday February 15 as part of measures to prevent new Covid variants reaching this country.

Travellers will be expected to pick up the bill for their stay, guidance published by the Government on February 11 has confirmed, with 16 hotels currently signed up to the scheme.

Arrivals from ‘red-listed’ destinations will have to book and pay for a quarantine package costing £1,750 before they travel. This will include the cost of their hotel, transport and testing, and will be available to book via an online platform that went live on February 11 (but quickly went down for maintenance).

The Government will also limit the right of entry to specific locations; Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport and Farnborough Airfield.

Travellers who try to conceal their arrival from a ‘red list’ country face jail sentences of up to 10 years or fines up to £10,000, which could also apply to those who break quarantine rules.

Other measures being introduced include tougher border checks regarding reason for travelling, while door to door testing will take place in some areas of England following the South African variant being discovered without any link to travel or known cases.

Government documents, leaked ahead of the latest announcement, revealed the strict conditions that will be imposed, including supervision by patrolling security guards. Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that there will be “visible security” in place to ensure compliance.

Quarantine hotels, or ‘directed isolation’ facilities, are already in use across Asia, New Zealand and Australia. But how will the idea work in the UK, and exactly which arrivals will have to comply? Here’s what we know. 

What is a quarantine hotel?

Travellers are confined to their rooms or apartments for the duration of their quarantine: usually 10-14 days, or until they have received two negative test results.

Those returning from ‘red-listed’ countries to the UK will face 10 days in a quarantine hotel from their time of arrival.

People will need to remain in their rooms and will not be allowed to mix with other guests.

Security guards will be in place, alongside necessary support, said Mr Hancock “so even as we protect public health, we can look after the people in our care”.

Food will be delivered directly to rooms, cooked either by the hotel or from a local takeaway service. If in-room facilities allow, guests may also prepare their own meals. 

Anyone who tries to avoid hotel quarantine will face a penalty of up to £10,000, said Mr Hancock.

Police outside a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, Australia

Police outside a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, Australia

Credit: Getty

Which countries are on the quarantine list?

The Government has so far resisted proposals for all arrivals to be subject to hotel quarantine. Initially, Mr Shapps wanted to limit the measure to passengers from only the 30 “high-risk” countries in which variants of Covid have emerged but three more countries – the UAE, Rwanda and Burundi – were added to the list on Jan 28.

Most of the 33 countries, bar Portugal and Cape Verde, are in or around South Africa and South America, where three Covid variants have emerged, in addition to the one that emerged in Kent.

At least three more countries – Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia – may be added to the list because of the risk from the variants.

As travel into the UK from these countries is already banned, the new rules will only affect British and Irish nationals, and anyone with residence rights in the UK.

Changes to the high risk list may be added at a moment’s notice, a Government source told The Times. 

Which hotels will be used – and where will they be?

The Government has so far contracted 16 hotels, for an initial 4,963 rooms, and said it will secure more as they are needed. It expects around 1,425 people a day to be bussed to the hotels on arrival. Groups with hotels along Heathrow’s Bath Road are being used, including Best Western and ibis Styles. 

You can quarantine with the people you travelled with and hotels will prioritise allocating larger or connecting rooms to families.

In every instance, guests must stay entirely within their own room, suite or apartment; venturing into public areas is not permitted.

A quarantine hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand

A quarantine hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand

Credit: Getty

How do I set up a stay? 

All travellers must present a negative Covid test on entry into the UK, taken in the three days before they travelled. 

Those coming from a country on the “red list” must book a “managed self isolation package”, which includes the hotel, transport and testing, via the website

Passengers will also need to complete a passenger locator form on arrival, with details of where they will quarantine. Those who provide false information on their form could face up to 10 years in prison. 

People face a fine of up to £4,000 for not booking a quarantine package, and will still have to pay for one on arrival.

The Government has limited the right of entry to specific locations; Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport and Farnborough Airfield. Those with pre-existing bookings to a different port of entry on or after February 15 must change it to one of the above. 

What will it be like?

On arrival at their hotel, guests will be met by staff wearing full PPE who will accompany them, along with a security guard, to their allocated rooms and make clear that they are not expected to leave their rooms for their designated isolation period. These security guards will conduct internal and external patrols, and potentially accompany guests wishing to exercise.

The Government’s guidance gives a very limited list of essential reasons why quarantine guests may leave their room, predominantly emergency situations, but also: “To exercise but only with special permission from hotel staff or security. This is not guaranteed.”

Room rates will include three meals a day, with access to 24-hour room service also available at an additional cost. All rooms (which guests will have to clean themselves) will have tea- and coffee-making facilities, a small fridge “if possible”, television “and/or radio”, Wi-Fi, and individual ventilation systems.

Transport to the hotel and back to the airport at the end of the stay will be provided as part of the package. 

ibis Styles Heathrow

A room at ibis Styles Heathrow, which was among properties preparing for the imminent new measures

Who will pay?

Travellers will foot the bill, Mr Hancock confirmed. It will cost £1,750 for an individual travelling alone, which includes the hotel, transport and testing. For an additional adult or child aged over 12, the cost is £650, or for a child aged between five and 12, £325. There is no charge for children under the age of five. Those already in receipt of  income-related benefits can apply for a deferred payment plan.

For comparison, the cost of 14 days in a quarantine hotel (set as standard rather than by individual properties) for an adult is £1,692 in Australia, £1,630 in New Zealand and £642 in Thailand – three countries that have introduced the measure so far.

How long will you have to stay?

All travellers will have to stay for the duration of their quarantine, with tests taken on days two and eight, with results of the latter arriving at the end of the stay, and a negative required to leave.

What happens if I test positive? 

Those who test positive on day two must quarantine until day 12. Those who test positive on day eight must stay until day 18. 

When will it happen?

The plans are due to come into effect from February 15.

What about Scotland?

Scotland has also imposed mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine for travel from any country outside of the Common Travel Area (that is the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) from February 15. Covid tests will be required on day two and eight of the isolation. 

Six hotels close to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports with a combined capacity of 1,300 rooms will be used to implement the quarantine at a cost of £1,750 per individual traveller. Final costs for those not travelling alone are currently being worked through, as well as the details for a Managed Isolation Welfare Fund which will be launched for those who cannot afford the charge.”

What are the other quarantine requirements now?

The UK’s ‘travel corridor’ system has been suspended, so all arrivals into the UK must quarantine for at least 10 days. The Government announced it will be strengthening testing measures for all travellers, starting February 15.

From Monday, all international arrivals, whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take PCR tests on day two and day eight of that quarantine. This will be enforced with new fines.

Anyone planning to travel to the UK, from Monday, needs to book these tests. The online portal where these tests can be booked will go live on February 11.

If either of these post-arrival tests comes back positive, they’ll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test.

This is in addition to the negative result required to enter the UK.

There will be a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test either within 72 hours of departure or on the second day of quarantine and a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test on day eight.

Any failure to be tested will also automatically extend the errant travellers’ quarantine period to 14 days. 

All UK arrivals from countries other than the 33 mentioned above must quarantine at a fixed address: at home, with a relative or friend, or in a hotel or self-catering property. Any hotel is sufficient, though most of the country’s hotels are currently closed. 

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