The government will shortly announce a policy of enforced quarantine in hotels for those arriving in the UK.
Hotel chains are expecting the government to announce measures that will affect those arriving in the UK from today, ITV reported.
The broadcaster reported UK arrivals would quarantine for 10 days under security with all meals to be eaten in their rooms, for a price of at least £1,500.
However, the Prime Minister gave no further details on the policy at the 5pm Covid-19 press conference. An update could come later this evening or on Wednesday.
The policy would be similar to that which has been in place in Australia for months, where arrivals have to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days at a hotel.
The decision is reportedly still to be signed off at a meeting of ministers today, but government sources told ITV disagreements among ministers are only over the detail, and “general policy looks pretty nailed on”.
But Glyn Jones, chief executive of London Southend airport, told City A.M. that airports were still awaiting details of how the scheme would work.
“We don’t know yet, which is understandable if the decision isn’t final yet. But it raises some intriguing and worrying practical issues”, he said.
“These constant short notice changes to policy bring their own challenges, and if these are not met, the effect for which it is designed is not delivered.”
There are just 129 hotel beds at London Southend, which sees about 6,000 passengers a day in normal times.
Three weeks before hotels are ready
A hotel industry source told The Times such a policy could take up to three weeks to enact, as closed hotels would have to reopen, while vital safety preparations were carried out.
This would include checks on the water supply to make sure it is free of potentially deadly bacteria and training staff in the latest Covid-19 compliance procedures.
The news comes after Boris Johnson said the new coronavirus variants had prompted a review of border policy.
New variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are opening up the prospect of a much longer battle against the pathogen than previously thought. Scientists fear the new variants may be more deadly, and that vaccines may be less effective against them.
“We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in – we’ve got to be able to keep that under control,” Johnson told reporters at a vaccination centre.
“We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad,” Johnson said. “We need a solution.”
The new variant identified in South Africa can evade the antibodies that attack it in treatments using blood plasma from previously recovered patients, and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of vaccines, scientists said.
Besides the South African variant, others have been identified in Britain and Brazil.
British scientists and politicians have expressed concern that vaccines being deployed or in development could be less effective against the variant.
The UK tourism industry is fearful of such a policy, and worries that tourism businesses could face a similar drop in spending to last year, when it lost an estimated £24.7bn.
Two aviation lobby groups this afternoon said any further tightening of border restrictions “would be catastrophic”.
A source in the aviation sector told City A.M. that the industry was in the dark as to how hotel quarantine measures would be put in place.
“There is a lot of specific detail on how any of this is going to be implemented that is missing. Your guess is as good as mine”, they said.