(CNN) — British people arriving home from 22 “high risk” countries will have to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense, as the United Kingdom tightens border controls to try to curb one of the world’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks.
Announcing the measure, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the tougher new rules would apply to travelers from “red list countries where we have particular concern about new variants.”
Non-UK residents will be refused entry, while British citizens and permanent residents will be picked up straight from the airport and transferred to government-provided accommodation where they will begin their mandatory stay.
Meals and hotel expenses in what is one of the world’s most expensive cities could end up costing travelers more than $2,000 for a 10-day quarantine.
The announcement came a day after the UK yesterday reached the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths — the first country in Europe to do so.
Johnson also said that travelers will be questioned as to their purpose for 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.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel later announced that people wishing to travel out of the UK will have to first make a declaration proving that their journey is essential.
It comes on top of the January 18 announcement that all travelers entering the UK, including British citizens, must present a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Prior to that date, the borders had been open with no test requirements.
The full list of 22 “red list” countries is still to be announced, but will include South Africa, Portugal and South American nations.
The new policy might take weeks to come into effect, as the new accommodations are not yet ready. Said Johnson, “The Department of Health and Social Care is working to establish these facilities as quickly as possible.”
The policy was criticized by Nick Thomas-Symonds, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, who said the announcement was “too little too late” and called for “comprehensive hotel quarantining.”
Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), responded to the UK government’s latest proposal in a statement.
“We firmly believe testing on departure and arrival for all travelers is the only way to halt the spread of the virus in its tracks, while still allowing negative testing passengers to travel in safety and restore international mobility,” she said.
“The government must be transparent about the metric used to label a country as ‘high risk,” she added. “It is also vital we have a clear exit strategy and more details on its testing on arrival policy.”