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Published on Tuesday, February 9, 2021

10-year jail sentences announced for Covid travel rule breakers

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced tougher-than-expected new rules for arrivals to England from next Monday, including up to 10 years in prison for those who don't stick to them.

Addressing the House of Commons, Mr Hancock said arrivals from 33 'red list' countries with the highest Covid rates will have to quarantine in designated hotels for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 per person.

This will include two Covid tests taken on days two and day eight of the quarantine.

All other arrivals will be allowed to quarantine at home but they'll also have to take Covid tests on day two and day eight, in addition to presenting a negative Covid test when they arrive in England.

The test-to-release scheme will continue for arrivals from non-red list countires, so they can end their quarantine early if they have a negative test taken on day five, but they'll still have to take another test eight days after they arrive.

Anyone who has a positive test will have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of their test result. Those who fail to take one of the legally-required tests will be fined up to £2,000.

Mr Hancock announced £10,000 for those caught breaching the quarantine requirement and up to 10 years in prison for arrivals from 'red list' countries who try to avoid hotel quarantine by travelling home via another country and for lying on the passenger locator forms.

Which are the quarantine hotels?

Mr Hancock said the Government has contracted 16 hotels with 4,500 rooms. However, given that the Government announced previously that it was expecting 1,000 arrivals a day from 'red list' countries, that would be enough rooms for less than five days - or nine days if they were all couples.

He said further hotels close to a 'small number of airports' would be contracted shortly.

Passengers will have to book the hotel rooms on a new website. Mr Hancock did not say whether they would have to re-arrange their flights home if there were no rooms available on their intended arrival date.

Do the new rules apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The new rules announced by Matt Hancock only apply to England but Scotland has confirmed that it will require arrivals from ALL countries to quarantine in hotels from 15 February. It has secured around 1,300 rooms close to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.

Industry reaction:

Advantage CEO Julia Lo Bue-Said says the introduction of enhanced testing is 'academic' since leisure travel is banned, but she called on the Government to explore cheaper, faster more reliable Covid tests for when travel resumes.

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, called for a two-week review of the new measures to ensure they were rolled back as soon as it is safe to do so.
"International travel must also be part of the Prime Minister's forthcoming roadmap out of lockdown, including transparent and risk-based health criteria for the lifting of travel restrictions," she said.

"In the meantime, airports and airlines are battling to survive with almost zero revenue and a huge cost base, and practically every week a further blow lands. Aviation-specific financial support is urgently needed to ensure our sector can get through the year."

Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, said the latest measures will 'bring business travel to a standstill, preventing thousands from doing their jobs'.

"The Health Secretary recognised the work of ports across England but has singularly failed to see the impact of these decisions on their supply chain," he said.

"The Government's latest decisions are inflicting mortal damage on livelihoods across the country.

"It is critical that the Government finally looks to the future. It must offer targeted support to our industry and lead the way in agreeing International Standards of entry.

"We risk being cut-off from the world if we do not start mapping out the route to safe travel from this latest lowest point."

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