February 27, 2021

Industry at ‘lowest point’ as new rules confirmed

The travel industry has reached its “lowest point” with the latest rules on quarantine and testing, according to the BTA.

Responding to new measures announced by the UK Government yesterday (see below) Clive Wratten, CEO of the BTA, said they would “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.”

Abby Penston, CEO of Focus Travel Partnership, said the hotel quarantine system “is literally going to hit our industry like a wrecking ball”.

“The government can’t impose actions such as this without having a supporting structure for our industry to see it through this period,” she said.

“Failure to do so will have ever lasting consequences that will directly impact the recovery process. The travel management company sector will be vital to ensuring that business travellers can safely and responsibly travel for work and kick starting the economy.”

Julia Lo Bue–Said, Chief Executive of Advantage Travel Partnerships, said at least the latest developments show the Government is “at last taking testing very seriously”.

“We would encourage them to investigate all the available options around higher quality, reliable and affordable pricing so that travellers in the future can book and travel with confidence, making travel accessible for all and not penalising, but recognising the importance of supporting the sectors recovery once the time is right,” she said.

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, and Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said the measures add a further barrier to viable air travel and deepen the worsening 2021 outlook for the sector, which has already been largely grounded for a year.

“A two-week review clause is essential to ensure that the current complex, blanket set of measures are rolled-back as soon as it is safe to do so,” they said in a joint statement.

What are the new rules from February 15?

Hotel quarantine

Anyone returning from a so-called ‘red list’ country, including UK and Irish residents who’ve been in red list countries in the last 10 days, will have to quarantine in an assigned hotel room for 10 days from the time of their arrival.

Before they travel, they will have to book, through an online platform, and pay for a quarantine package, which costs £1,750 for an individual and includes the hotel, transport and testing.

This booking system will go live tomorrow (February 11), when the Government will also publish full detailed guidance on the new requirements.

When passengers arrive in the UK they’ll be escorted to a designated hotel, which will be closed to guests who aren’t quarantining, for 10 days or for longer if they test positive for Covid-19 during their stay.

The Government has contracted 16 hotels, for an initial 4,600 rooms, and will secure more as required.

People will need to remain in their rooms, and will not be allowed to mix with other guests.

There will be visible security in place to ensure compliance, alongside necessary support.

Testing

All passengers are already required to take a pre-departure test and cannot travel to this country if it is positive.

From February 15, all international arrivals, whether under home quarantine or hotel quarantine, will be required by law to take further PCR tests on day two and day eight of that quarantine.

Passengers will have to book these tests through an online portal before they travel.

Anyone planning to travel to the UK, from Monday, needs to book these tests.

The online portal will go live tomorrow (Thursday).

If either of these post-arrival tests comes back positive, they’ll have to quarantine for a further 10 days from the date of the test, and will be offered any NHS treatment that is necessary.

Any positive result will automatically undergo genomic sequencing to confirm whether they have a variant of concern.

Under home quarantining, the existing Test to Release scheme can still be used from day five, but this would be in addition to the mandatory two tests.

Enforcement

There will be strong enforcement of both home quarantine and hotel quarantine.

Airlines will be required by law to make sure that passengers have signed up for the new arrangements before they travel, and will be fined if they don’t.

There will also be tough fines for people who don’t comply, including:

  • a £1,000 penalty for any international arrival who fails to take a mandatory test
  • a £2,000 penalty to any international arrival who fails to take the second mandatory test, as well as automatically extending their quarantine period to 14 days
  • and a £5,000 fixed penalty notice, rising to £10,000, for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel

The Government is also coming down hard on people who provide false information on the passenger locator form. Anyone who lies on this and tries to conceal that they’ve been in a country on the red list in the 10 days before arrival in the UK will face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Pilots and a small number of other essential workers are exempt.

Rest of the UK

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own slightly different travel rules.

Anyone arriving from Scotland from outside the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland will need to book and pay for managed isolation in quarantine hotels.

All arrivals, including UK and Ireland nationals, will be required to quarantine for at least 10 days and take Covid tests on days two and eight after their arrival. 

Six hotels close to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, with a combined capacity of 1,300 rooms, will be used at a cost of £1,750 per traveller. 

Exemptions will be restricted to only a small number of workers involved in the supply of essential goods coming into the country.

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