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Boris Johnson has confirmed that British citizens returning from high-risk countries must quarantine in hotels at their own expense, facing down calls from cabinet colleagues and scientists to extend the policy to all arrivals.
Speaking in the Commons, Johnson also said all travellers would be interrogated as to their purpose of travel. “I want to make clear that under the stay-at-home regulations, it is illegal to leave home to travel abroad for leisure purposes and we will enforce this at ports and airports by asking people why they are leaving and instructing them to return home if they do not have a valid reason to travel,” he said.
“We have also banned all travel from 22 countries where there is a risk of known variants including South Africa, Portugal and South American nations. And in order to reduce the risk posed by UK nationals and residents returning home from these countries, I can announce that we will require all such arrivals who cannot be refused entry to isolate in government-provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days without exception.
“They will be met at the airport and transported directly into quarantine. The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.”
Those who will be ordered to quarantine in hotels are likely to only include British citizens or permanent residents who must be allowed to enter. The policy is expected to take several weeks to implement.
Scientists expressed some dismay at the policy. Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said there would still be major gaps in the UK’s defences. “It has to apply to all arrivals, or no countries,” she said. We know people will just transit and connect in other airports to avoid quarantine.
“The UK tried this with screening from China last Feb and March, but the seeding came from Spain, Italy and France. We need to learn that lesson. It would be a shame for the UK to vaccinate a bulk of the population and just re-import a strain our vaccines aren’t as effective against.“
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College London and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said the policy would be “enough to damage the economy but not nearly enough to be effective against Covid”.
She said the policy ran the risk of importing an as-yet unidentified new variant that might evade the current vaccines.
“Firstly, we just don’t know who the ‘high risk’ countries are because most countries do not have the sophisticated sequencing capabilities you need to spot, track and analyse new variants,” she said,
“If we work with the Republic of Ireland, we can control our borders for Covid as island nations – we should take advantage of this to do all we can to minimise the risks of new variants just as we are rolling out vaccination across the population. And instead we just aren’t.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Arrivals in UK from high-risk countries to pay for hotel quarantine | World news