Anyone resident in Britain or Ireland who arrives at an English port or airport within 10 days of visiting a coronavirus hotspot will have to pay £1,750 (€1,990) for a compulsory stay at a quarantine hotel for 10 days under new rules announced on Tuesday.
Travellers who try to conceal a visit to one of 33 “red list” countries deemed high risk for coronavirus when they complete a passenger locator form will face up to 10 years in prison.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said passengers will have to book and pay for the quarantine hotel before their departure to Britain and they will only be allowed to arrive at a small number of designated ports.
“When they arrive, they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel, which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer if they test positive for Covid-19 during their stay,” he told the House of Commons.
“People will need to remain in their rooms, and of course will not be allowed to mix with other guests. And there will be visible security in place to ensure compliance, alongside necessary support – so even as we protect public health, we can look after the people in our care.”
Travellers from countries other than those on the red list must show proof of a negative coronavirus test conducted within 72 hours before their departure and self-isolate for 10 days after arrival. From Monday, they will have to take two further PCR coronavirus tests, on the second and eighth days of their self-isolation.
“Passenger carriers will have a duty in law to make sure that passengers have signed up for these new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t, and we will be putting in place tough fines for people who don’t comply,” Mr Hancock said.
“This includes a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test, a £2,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days, and a £5,000 fixed penalty notice – rising to £10,000 – for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.”
British coronavirus travel restrictions do not apply to arrivals from within the Common Travel Area so travellers from Ireland into Britain will not be affected by the new rules.
The 10-year maximum prison sentence for giving false information on a passenger locator form is similar to the tariff for indecent assault, possession of a firearm and threatening to kill.
Mr Hancock said the new rules would be replaced over time with a new, secure system for international travel but he suggested that such a regime will have to wait until the vaccination programme is completed.
“The first task is to vaccinate the population. If we get good news on the vaccination impact on hospitalisations and deaths from people who have new mutations, then we will be in a better place. If we do not get such good news, then we will need to use the updated vaccines to protect against the variants of concerns,” he said.