A travel expert today said adding passengers arriving in Britain from Spain and the US to the UK’s ‘red list’ of countries would be a ‘strange’ move as officials consider the risk of new variants from the two countries.
UK health officials will decide this week if those arriving from the two countries should isolate for ten days in one of the 16 quarantine hotels approved by the Government in an effort to stop the mutant variants from spreading.
But daily Covid-19 case rates are falling in the US, down to a rolling seven-day average of 77,093 yesterday from 217,703 a month ago; and in Spain, down to 11,939 from 28,829. In the UK, they are down to 12,323 from 46,339.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said the decision on whether to add Spain and the US to the ‘red list’ will depend on how the UK Government defines ‘high risk’ – in terms of variants or cases.
The Cabinet Covid Operations Committee will make their decision using evidence from the Joint Biosecurity Centre. It comes after analysis carried out by the World Health Organisation found dozens of countries where the highly-infectious South African and Brazilian variants had been found were not on the Government’s high-risk list.
They included Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the US. Both Spain and the US have seen new mutations of Covid-19 transmitted locally and are close to South America and Portugal, which are both already on the UK Government’s ‘red list’. In other developments today:
- Anti-lockdown Tories piled further pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift restrictions before July;
- An Imperial College study found one in 196 people were infected with Covid in the first half of February;
- 738 deaths were reported yesterday, down from 1,001 last Wednesday, and daily cases fell below 13,000;
- MPs warned that many of the UK’s nightclubs and music venues would not survive without government help;
- The UK will be the first country to deliberately infect volunteers with coronavirus to find better vaccines.
Mr Charles told MailOnline: ‘I have to say, it would be quite surprising if Spain and the US were added to the high risk list because their case numbers are falling strongly and reducing in a very positive way.
Daily Covid-19 case rates are falling in the US, down to a rolling seven-day average of 77,093 yesterday from 217,703 a month ago; and in Spain, down to 11,939 yesterday from 28,829 a month ago. In the UK, they are down to 12,323 from 46,339
Daily Covid-19 deaths are also falling in the US, Spain and Britain after hitting a new peak in all three – as shown above
UK health officials will decide this week if those arriving from the US and Spain should isolate for ten days in one of the 16 quarantine hotels approved by the Government in an effort to stop the mutant variants from spreading
International passengers push their baggage through London Heathrow Airport after arriving at Terminal Two yesterday
‘And in fact in terms of daily cases, Spain has a very similar amount to us. In fact, yesterday it had fewer daily cases than the UK. So it would be very surprising and a strange decision if Spain was added to the high risk list, bearing in mind its cases are clearly reducing.
‘The same applies to the US where its daily infections are substantially lower than they were a month ago. I think it depends how the Government is defining high risk – is it defining it by high evidence of new variants or is it defining it by whether infections are spreading?
What are the rules for entering Britain?
- You cannot enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the banned travel list (known as the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, unless you’re British, Irish or you have the right to live in the UK
- You must either quarantine where you’re staying or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
- What you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive – if you travel in or through a country on the banned travel list within 10 days, you must stay managed quarantine hotel; if not, you can quarantine at home
- You need to provide your journey and contact details in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You must do this by completing the online passenger locator form
- You’ll need to show proof that you’ve completed the form when you arrive at the UK border as well as proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken three days before departure
- You could be fined £500 when you arrive at the border if you cannot provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test
- You do not need a test if you’re travelling within the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey; from Ireland; from Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena; and children under 11 do not need a test
- After arriving at a quarantine hotel you will be tested on days two and eight of your stay using a PCR test self-administered in your room
- In Scotland, arrivals from all international destinations have to quarantine, even if they are not on the red list.
‘If they had evidence of new variants spreading, then you could see why they might add it to the high risk list, Spain in particular where it’s next door to Portgual, the variants may have comes across the border.
‘Obviously there are links between Madrid and Latin America where there has been evidence of especially the Brazil variant.
‘The Government may decide to add them based on new evidence of new variants in those countries, but from a daily cases point of view it would be very surprising as their numbers are coming down. So if they did add them, I hope it would only be for a short period, until there’s further data showing that governments are starting to get a grip now on the ferocity of the virus.’
Mr Charles added that there are fewer than 10,000 people coming into Britain each day at the moment, including up to 500 from Spain and fewer than 800 from the US. The majority of people on these routes are travelling in economy, rather than business class.
In normal circumstances at this time of year, there would be 200,000 to 300,000 arriving in Britain each day. He said: ‘Some airlines are running flights primarily for bringing cargo into the UK, so the flights are carrying on.
‘There are very few passengers flying on those planes or routes at the moment, and obviously those who are flying are travelling for essential reasons – maybe military, medical or essential business, it’s a mixture, and essentially that’s why there are still some flights going between the Spain and the US.’
Mr Charles continued: ‘The key thing is these measures can’t last, they’re going to have to be relaxed from April onwards when the data is proving that the NHS is not under pressure from Covid and the Government have got a handle on it.
‘To be honest, I think the numbers flying at the moment are so small that adding these countries to the high risk list at the moment would not have a high impact to the industry. The industry is already on its knees from all of the measures combined.’
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, also told MailOnline today: ‘Today all air travel including to the US and Spain is already heavily restricted by quarantine and testing requirements on travellers.
‘Hotel quarantine is an additional layer of restrictions that UK airlines have supported as an emergency, targeted measure, but their introduction makes it all the more vital that Government publishes a recovery roadmap for aviation that spells out how these restrictions will be lifted when the time is right, that will be vital not just for the aviation industry but also any prospects of a wider UK economic recovery.’
It comes after a Government source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The US and Spain are on the list so it means some of the bigger markets will be considered by officials as part of the discussions before being put to ministers. It will be based on evidence from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.’
A woman staying in quarantine at the Radisson Blu hotel near Heathrow gives a thumbs down to a photographer this morning
It comes after airports were told this week that the list of high-risk countries would ‘get longer before it got shorter’, according to the Telegraph.
Yesterday passengers shut in hotel quarantine after arriving from the UK began to reach desperate levels, posting notes at their windows begging to leave their accommodation.
33 ‘high-risk’ nations from which arriving travellers will have to quarantine in hotels
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores)
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Countries with the highest cases of the South African and Brazilian variant, which may be next on the list
Austria and Belgium
All arrivals in England from 33 banned countries must book government-approved accommodation at an initial cost of £1,750 under a scheme that came into force on Monday.
But the strain of being stuck inside seemed to be taking its toll on some of the enforced hotel residents.
One held aloft a handwritten note at his window, bemoaning: ‘I am stressed here, no mobile phone, no access to my bank details to sort bills, my Covid-19 results. Why can’t quarantine at home?’
Another woman held up her boxed up meal at the glass, with a thoroughly disgusted look on her face.
The hotel quarantine initiative is intended to stop dangerous Covid variants being imported into the UK and there are no exemptions for illness of people who have suffered bereavement.
Upon arrival, travellers must show Border Force evidence of a negative PCR or antigen test result taken within three days of leaving the previous country.
Quarantining guests are then tested on days two and eight using PCR tests self-administered in their own rooms. They can leave after they have received a negative result and quarantined for ten days.
Meanwhile, guests who test positive on the second occasion will have to pay £1,200 to extend their stay for an extra eight nights at £152 per day.
Guests received their tests for the first time yesterday, including Brazilian couple Wagner and Elaine Araujo, who are staying at the Radisson Blue near Heathrow. Yesterday marked 48 hours since they arrived in the hotel.
Mr Araujo, 43, told MailOnline they would have to pay £2,400 provided they both tested negative.
‘We’re waiting to hear when we’ll be tested are confident that we’ll be negative because we had to prove we were negative before leaving Brazil,’ he said. ‘Like many guests our big concern is how we will pay for this quarantine.
‘It’s a lot of money and we feel we’ve been unfairly treated because we were initially booked to return before the quarantine hotel scheme started but our return flights to the UK kept on getting cancelled.’
He added: ‘Fortunately you don’t have to pay the money up front but when we leave, we’ll have to find it from somewhere. It’s going to be a struggle paying this bill.’
Also yesterday, Dominic Raab clashed with ITV’s Good Morning Britain host Kate Garraway as she grilled the Foreign Secretary on the policy.
The row was sparked when Ms Garraway asked Mr Raab to ‘clarify’ his response to her questions about a series of bungles over the scheme, including reports that Border Guards had only received the full enforcement guidance three hours before it started.
A guest appeared appalled by boxed food she had delivered to her room at the Radisson Blu hotel near Heathrow yesterday
A stressed passenger in the Radisson Blu hotel near Heathrow wrote about his frustrations at the new scheme yesterday
One new arrival was dropped off outside the hotel near Heathrow Airport yesterday ahead of her quarantine stay
The politician snapped back ‘Will you let me answer?’ before saying that people are fed up with ‘the media’ not allowing politicians to give ‘honest answers’.
Meanwhile, concerns were today raised about the impact of the programme on people with cancer after a British man said it had left him stuck abroad.
Michael Thomas, 68, is in Madeira with his wife and 14-year-old daughter after flying out for a holiday in December.
He need a special diet, access to medicine and support, and also fears he could catch Covid from other guests or a member of staff, which he described as a ‘death sentence’.
‘I couldn’t do the hotel. I think I’d leave on a stretcher,’ he told the Guardian.
Guests can ask for medical attention and can leave the hotel for treatment but Mr Thomas’ GP has told him the stay would be too dangerous. There are no medical exemptions to the scheme.
It comes as an eight-year-old girl and her father were reunited with the child’s mother after being wrongly quarantined under Scotland’s new hotel isolation rules.
Chun Wong and his daughter Kiernan had spent just a day in quarantine when they were told they could go free. Afterwards, Kiernan was seen embracing her mother after immigration delays had kept them apart for 16 months.
Brazilian couple Wagner and Elaine Araujo, who are staying at the Radisson Blu, received their PCR tests yesterday
A member of NHS Test and Trace staff walks into the Holiday Inn hotel near London Heathrow Airport yesterday
Since the start of the week, all passengers arriving in Scotland on international flights must enter ‘managed isolation’.
But this does not apply to those coming from within the Common Travel Area, including the UK and Ireland, meaning the Wongs could go free.
Security measures for hotel guests in England have caused controversy, with some claiming they can leave their rooms to smoke ‘whenever they want’ while staff have been seen not wearing masks properly.
Businessman Wayne Kelly, who is quarantining for ten days at the Radisson Blu hotel at Heathrow, told how he was escorted from his room outside for a cigarette by security guards – some of whom were wearing masks beneath their nose.
Mr Kelly, 37, a property developer – who flew back to the UK from Dubai on Monday – said: ‘I can have regular cigarette breaks when I want them. I just phone down and they send a bloke up to accompany me.
‘When you get to the ground floor, there are guys in yellow flack jackets sitting and standing around. They are nice guys but some of them haven’t got their face masks on properly.
‘It is ironic really because I suppose the whole point of me being inside here it to protect everyone else. Whenever I leave my room I have my Gucci facemask pulled up properly and it would be great if they played their part and put their masks on properly too.
A passenger arrives with officials at a Holiday Inn hotel near Heathrow Airport yesterday for the start of ten days in isolation
A cleaner inside the Radisson Blu near Heathrow yesterday after the Government quarantine hotel system began this week
‘That is meant to be the rules for everyone. But they are friendly and there are no heavy duty restrictions on me.
‘I am made to sign the book when I leave my room and go out to the smoking area and I have to sign it when I come back in. But if I wanted to, I could just walk right out of this hotel.’
Security guards patrolling outside the Radisson and neighbouring Novotel confirmed that they have been told to allow guests to go outside for a smoke but warned that they must not be left alone.
One said that they had not been told of any limits to the number of times a guest can go outside for a smoke. ‘I don’t know if it’s an official policy, because strictly speaking guests are not allowed to leave their rooms.
‘But we’ve been told that if somebody does need to go out for a smoke, then we have to accompany them to make sure that they do not run off or meet anybody,’ he told MailOnline.
But other staff members at both the Novotel and the Holiday Inn said smoking was not allowed and quarantining guests need to stay in their rooms for the duration of their stay.
West Midlands Police said earlier this week that four travellers were fined £10,000 each for failing to declare they had been in a Covid hotspot country.
The penalties were handed out at Birmingham Airport only hours after quarantine hotels came into force on Monday.