England is introducing stricter border rules to increase protection against new Covid-19 variants arriving from abroad, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.
Hancock warned the government is “coming down hard” on passengers arriving in the UK lying on mandatory "locator forms," with the threat of a potential ten-year jail prison sentence.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Hancock set out three elements of the strengthened system for international arrivals coming into force in England from Monday. He said the government is working with the devolved administrations as well as the Irish government to put in place a similar system that works across the common travel area.
The first part of the new system involves quarantining in a hotel. Here are those details:
- UK and Irish residents -- who've been in one of the government’s 33 "red list" countries in the last 10 days -- will need to quarantine in a designated hotel.
- They will only be able to arrive into a small number of ports and will have to book a quarantine package -- at a cost of £1,750 (approximately US $2,411) for the hotel, transport and testing – before departing for the UK.
- Hancock said the booking system will go live on Thursday.
- There are currently 16 designated hotels.
- Hancock said there will be visible security to maintain compliance.
The second part of the system involves more testing:
- Every passenger arriving into the UK must demonstrate a negative test result 72 hours before they travel.
- From Monday, all international arrivals will also be required to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight after their arrival.
- Passengers will have to book these tests through the online portal before they travel. If a result comes back positive they must quarantine for a further 10 days.
- Positive tests will undergo genomic sequencing to test for variants, Hancock said.
The third part of the system focuses on a stronger enforcement of the rules:
- Passenger carriers will have a legal duty to make sure passengers have signed up to new arrangements and will be fined if they don’t, Hancock said.
- There will also be increased fines for people who don’t comply, including a £1,000 (approximately US $1,377) penalty for failing to take the first Covid-19 test and a £2,000 fine (about US $2,755) if they don’t take a second mandatory test -- as well as an automatic extension on their quarantine period to 14 days.
- There will also be a £5,000 (approximately US $6,888), rising to £10,000 (about US $13,776) for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel.
- Hancock said people who provide false information on the passenger locator or try to conceal that they've been in a country on the "Red List" in the 10 days before arrival will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
- Hancock said these measures will be put into law this week.
It is currently illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes in the UK.