Watch: COVID-19 - India added to coronavirus travel 'red list' over new variant concerns
Eleven months after the coronavirus pandemic began, the UK government introduced mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals from selected “high-risk” countries.
The tighter travel restrictions are designed to reduce the introduction and transmission of new variants of the virus.
The strategy of using quarantine hotels or other government-mandated facilities where travellers must self-isolate has already proven successful in other countries including Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand.
In plans announced on 9 April, international travel has been given the official go-ahead by the Global Travel Taskforce, subject to a traffic light system.
The new rules mean each country or region will be classified as red, amber or green. There will also be a “green watchlist”, which is a measure that the government will use as a way to identify the countries most at risk of moving from green to amber.
The traffic light system will come into force no earlier than 17 May.
But which countries are high risk and what are the rules? Here’s everything you need to know.
Which countries are high risk?
The government has announced hotel quarantine plans for Britons returning from high-risk or “red list” countries to stop new coronavirus variants entering England.
As of 4am on 9 April, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Kenya were added to the “red list”. As a result, many people raced back from Pakistan to beat the deadline and avoid having to pay £1,750 for 11 nights of hotel quarantine.
The only arrivals permitted from those countries are British and Irish nationals or those with UK residence rights.
The countries are mainly located in South America and southern Africa. Here’s the full list. (* indicates rules will come into force at 4am on 23 April)
Democratic Republic of Congo
United Arab Emirates
The list was originally 30 countries long. On 28 January, transport secretary Grant Shapps said that an additional three countries had been added to the red list: the United Arab Emirates, Burundi and Rwanda.
Hotel quarantine came into effect on 15 February.
On 15 March, Portugal and Mauritius were removed from the list but Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar and Somalia were added.
On 2 April, the government announced Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines had been added from 4am on 9 April.
On 19 April, India was added.
What determines whether a country is high risk?
As the move to use quarantine hotels is primarily in response to new variants of Covid-19, it’s likely that a country will be deemed “high risk” if one of the new variants has been identified there.
As well as the UK’s own variant, named B.1.1.7, other mutations have been found in South Africa (1.351) and Brazil (P.1). This last “contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It adds: “These variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of Covid-19. Currently, there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death.”
According to the second Global Travel Taskforce report, published on 9 April, the key factors in assessing a country’s risk factor will be its rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern and the progress of its vaccination programme.
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Where will high risk travellers stay and how will they get there?
According to health secretary Matt Hancock, 16 hotels, with a total of 4,600 rooms, have been contracted. Bath Road, which runs parallel to the runway at London Heathrow airport, has been dubbed “Isolation Row”.
Travellers will be privately “escorted” to their quarantine hotel upon arrival.
Fines of up to £10,000 will apply to arrivals who fails to undergo the stipulated hotel quarantine, while people who misrepresent their travel history on the passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in prison.
Travellers will have to finance the quarantine themselves, at a cost of £1,750 per person for those travelling alone, which includes 10 days' (11 nights') room and board. Additional people in the same hotel room will pay significantly less. The second will pay only £650, with further discounts for children: £325 each. A family of four will pay £3,050.
How long is quarantine?
The current quarantine for all arrivals into the UK is 10 days and 11 nights. This will remain the same for any arrivals from countries on the red list once the traffic light system comes into effect, which will be no earlier than 17 May.
What about all other arrivals?
All travel corridors were suspended on 18 January – which means those entering the country from non-high risk destinations must still self-isolate for 10 days. However, they are permitted to do so at home or while staying with friends or family. Quarantinees are instructed to “travel directly to the place you are staying” but can use public transport to complete their journey.
When the new traffic light system is in place, travellers from countries on the amber list will need to self-isolate for 10 days at home, with the chance of early release in England if you pay for another test after five days.
For travellers returning from countries on the green list, there will be no need to quarantine on return, but a pre-booked post-arrival PCR test will be needed. This is likely to cost upwards of £100. It must be taken on the day of arrival (“day zero”), the day after or the following day (“day two”).