No formal contracts have yet been awarded to hotels to quarantine arrivals in the UK from countries on the “red list”, the government has admitted.
The news comes despite the policy coming into force from next week, which will see travellers returning from Covid-19 hotspots abroad required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
As of 15 February, UK nationals and residents returning from a list of 33 countries where the government fears Covid-19 variants have spread will have to self-isolate in approved accommodation for a 10 day period.
A commercial specification was issued on Thursday (4 February) evening to hotels located near air and sea ports, asking for proposals on how they could deliver managed quarantine facilities.
However, Downing Street said on Monday (8 February) that no formal contracts have yet been awarded.
Hotel chains have previously criticised the government’s delay in releasing further details on how the new rules will work.
Travellers will be expected to pay for the cost of their accommodation and must remain in their hotel room for 10 nights, with security guards to accompany them if they go outside.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “It beggars belief that no agreements have been made with hotels, just a few days before the quarantining system is due to begin.
“It will be over 50 days since the South African strain was identified and nearly a year since other countries have been successfully implementing hotel quarantine.
“Even when these measures eventually do begin, scientists have made clear that the limited way they are being introduced will be insufficient to stop mutant strains of the virus reaching the UK, potentially putting the gains of the vaccine at risk.
“Conservative incompetence is yet again putting people at risk.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that border controls could play a greater role against new coronavirus variants when infection rates are further reduced.
Asked about introducing tougher measures, the Prime Minister said: “They are most effective, border controls, when you’ve got the rate of infection down in your country.
“And at the moment we’ve greatly reduced the rate of infection from the peak, where it was a few weeks ago, but it’s still extremely high, and for border controls really to make that final difference, so you can isolate new variants as they come in, you need to have infections really much lower so you can track them as they spread.
“Don’t forget, we in the UK are capable of seeing variants arise here, just in the UK, the Kent variant arose here, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be relying very much on border controls as we get the rates of infection down overall.”
Which countries are on the ‘red list’?
The four UK nations have agreed that people arriving from high-risk countries on a “red list” will have to quarantine in hotels, but Scotland plans to introduce a more “comprehensive” approach to “managed quarantine”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish government intends to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of where they have come from.
Further details on how and when the quarantine changes will come into effect are still yet to be confirmed.
The quarantine hotels are expected to be set up close to airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it was working “at pace” to roll out the managed quarantine facilities.
The full list of countries which require travellers to quarantine is as follows:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)